Murphy and pitching lead the way
BY JOE RINI
Two weeks before the season ended, Daniel Murphy told me that being in his first pennant race in seven years was fun; one can only imagine how much fun his first postseason has been. After sweeping the Chicago Cubs in four games in the NLCS, the Mets march to the franchise’s fifth World Series appearance thanks to an epic playoff performance by Murphy, stellar starting pitching, and the solid Jeurys Familia closing games.
A Met since 2008, Murphy’s postseason performance has reached historic proportions in his first two postseason series against the Dodgers and Cubs. A solid .288 career hitter, the Mets infielder hit a career high 14 homeruns in 2015 but has hit a staggering seven this postseason including homering in a record setting six games in a row after circling the bases against Cubs pitcher Fernando Rodney in Wednesday’s 8-3 clincher.
Additionally, it’s not just his performance at the plate that has elevated Murphy, the MVP of the NLCS, to Swoboda/Agee/Wilson postseason folklore status. Murphy, who sometimes has tested the patience of fans with his play in the field and on the bases over the years, turned game five of the NLDS around with a heads-up base running play and helped preserve a game one win in the NLCS with a diving stop on defense for the game’s final out.
“I’ve watched a lot of baseball over the years, I don’t think I’ve seen anybody put on this kind of a show on this stage like he has so far,” Terry Collins said about Murphy.
Looking back on his performance, Murphy said, “It’s just such a blessing to be able to contribute to what we’ve been able to do. I really can’t explain it. It’s just a complete blessing, and that’s the only way I can describe it.”
“The Murph’s” performance is also notable because these could be his final games as a member of the Mets. Soon to be a free agent, the 30-year old veteran is not expected to be re-signed by the Mets as the team is expected to replace him with younger (and less expensive) alternatives like Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera. Murphy’s performance is raising eyebrows, not to mention his agent’s potential asking price for his services, and may give the Mets pause about letting him walk away.
Lead by Jacob deGrom, the Mets starting pitching has powered its way through the postseason so far, one 95+ mile per hour fastball after another. A 14 game winner in 2015, deGrom joined a select group of pitchers, including Madison Bumgarner and Cliff Lee, when he earned his third road victory of the postseason over the Cubs on Tuesday. DeGrom has gritted his way to victory in his past two starts after struggling in the opening innings as he, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey quieted the explosive young bats of the Cubs and picked up wins in both the NLDS and NLCS.
Backing up the starters has been the continued bulwark of Jeurys Familia in the bullpen. Besides retiring all 16 Dodgers he faced in the NLDS, Familia has closed out all seven wins and earned five saves this postseason.
As the Mets await the winner of the ALCS between Kansas City and Toronto, games three, four, and five (if necessary) of the World Series will be at Citi Field starting Friday, October 30 after the Fall Classic opens in the American League park on October 27.