Murphy cleaning up at the plate for Mets

Daniel Murphy #28 of the New York Mets

Daniel Murphy #28 of the New York Mets singles in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves. (June 4, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

MILWAUKEE -- As a handful of Mets took some early swings Tuesday afternoon at Miller Park, hitting coach Dave Hudgens leaned on one side of the cage and examined each player intently.

Across from Hudgens, and studying his teammates just as closely, stood Daniel Murphy, dressed in gym shorts and wearing shower shoes on his feet. Murphy didn't take any turns in the cage. Just watched as Jason Bay, Angel Pagan, Nick Evans and Willie Harris rotated through.

There was no place he'd rather be.

"I don't have many skills in this world," Murphy said. "I enjoy watching hitting, seeing how those guys are swinging it. The balls were jumping out there. It was fun to watch."

The Mets can say the same about Murphy these days. He entered Tuesday night batting .466 (27-for-58) since May 20, which is the highest average in the majors during that span. As a result, his overall average has jumped from .233 to .309, and Murphy also has an eight-game hitting streak that includes seven multihit games and a .567 average (17-for-30) for that stretch.

The injuries to Ike Davis and David Wright, combined with Jason Bay's prolonged funk, have forced Terry Collins to use Murphy in the cleanup spot, which is an uncharacteristic role for him. Fortunately, Carlos Beltran was able to return to the lineup after fouling a ball off his calf, but the manager can't be picky in his scramble to find a working formula. Murphy's hot bat has helped.

"To be honest, that's what I totally expected from Daniel Murphy," Collins said. "The fact that he missed all of last year, we were anxious to see how he got back into it. We all thought he would hit at this level and he's proved that.

"Now he's back doing what he does. All he's trying to do is get hits. Is he the prototypical four hitter? No, he's not. But in that spot, what we've needed are hits, and I think he's going to get us those hits."

Murphy's .433 slugging percentage is a little light for cleanup and he'd like to mix in some extra-base hits. That's something that can't be forced, however, and Murphy understands that he has to think more about the situation than driving balls over the fence. Plus, he's batting .386 (17-for-44) with runners in scoring position. "I've been very fortunate, very happy to find a good spot, a consistent spot, and I think most of all, it helps you relax," Murphy said. "It's easy to say you want to relax. But when you're hitting .240, you don't relax. It takes a very mature player that I don't consider myself to be yet."

One of the biggest keys for Murphy has been the opportunity to play every day -- a window that opened when he took over at second base and later moved to first.

"It definitely helps," Murphy said. "But that's not always going to be your role on a ballclub. I wish it was under different circumstances . . . I've gotten more relaxed and more comfortable, and that's when you really start tapping into what kind of hitter you can be. Now when I look up I like what I see. Instead of .235, I don't care much for that."

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