A somber Daniel Murphy was waiting by his locker as the doors to the clubhouse swung open Saturday night -- a specter of the Murphy we've seen before in these playoffs, the celebratory, jovial one who counted his blessings every time he opened his mouth.
He was ready for the questions and when the cameramen had situated themselves, he took accountability until even the TV people had had their fill of his self-recriminations. When a second wave of reporters approached, he stayed put, and did it all again.
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He should've used two hands to field the ball, he explained. "There's no excuse for it," he said. "We lost the ballgame because of it."
It's unlikely that anyone feels worse than Murphy about his eighth-inning error -- the one that allowed the Royals to tie the game, which they eventually won to give them a 3-1 series lead -- but going into Game 5 Sunday night, the Mets refused to let Murphy go through it alone.
"We may not be sitting here if it wasn't for Daniel Murphy, I'll tell you that," manager Terry Collins said. "It was a play we wish he would have made."
Murphy's trajectory from playoff hero to goat has been stunning in its rapidity. Going into Sunday, he had 19 hits in the playoffs, the most in team history, and his seven homers are the most in Mets history for a single postseason, and the most in a career. But the World Series has stymied him: Before Game 5, he was 3-for-17 against Kansas City, and that ball hit by Eric Hosmer -- the one that bounced under his glove and allowed the tying run to score from second Saturday night -- has provided a third-act twist worth of Shakespeare himself. In a bit of symmetry, his sixth-inning grounder to Hosmer Sunday night was misplayed to load the bases and the Mets scored on a sac fly.
Before that, the response from the Citi Field crowd was lukewarm. The "Murphy" chants seem like something of a different era, and when he struck out looking against Edinson Volquez in the first inning, there were even a few scattered boos.
"Murph is a stand-up guy," Michael Cuddyer said. "We talked about it at length last night. Last night's over, we're not going to worry about that anymore. Now it's about tonight. And we're focused on trying to win tonight, trying to beat Volquez and the Royals. And that's pretty much what we're thinking."