David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
CHICAGO - When the Mets inevitably wrap up this NLCS, and add another chapter to the Cubs' never-ending story of cursed heartbreak, kids from the North Side should be dressing up as Daniel Murphy this Halloween.
Seeing that No. 28, with a bat in his hand? There isn't a more terrifying sight in these parts. And for those shaken citizens of Wrigleyville, don't worry. Murphy will be leaving soon, along with the other Mets, their next destination a likely World Series date with the Royals in Kansas City.
The Mets seem unstoppable, rolling to a 3-0 lead in this series after Tuesday night's 5-2 victory in Game 3, and Murphy is a force of nature. When Murphy took Kyle Hendricks over the centerfield wall in the third inning, a solo shot that put the Mets ahead, 2-1, it was his sixth home run of this postseason.StoryMets move within one win of World Series berthSee alsoNLCS Game 3 boxscore: Mets vs. Cubs
Murphy also has homered in five consecutive games, tying the playoff record of Carlos Beltran, who had an October for the ages in 2004. The notable difference? Beltran's Astros got tripped up in the NLCS. Murphy's power surge is going to propel the Mets to the World Series.
"I wish I could explain it," Murphy said, repeating a familiar refrain. "I would have done it like six years ago. I can't explain it."
Better not to overthink this. Players in every sport talk about reaching the mystical "zone" and have no clue how they got in or out of it. The only approach is to ride it for as long as they can. When Murphy deposited that Hendricks pitch in the bleachers, his teammates went wild in the dugout, but are struggling to grasp the enormity of what he's doing.
"It's ridiculous," David Wright said. "Being here in Chicago, he should have given the shoulder shrug to [Michael] Jordan after that last one. It's fun to watch. I understand how difficult it is to do what he's doing, to continue this hot streak."
Difficult? Just making contact against Clayton Kershaw is difficult. What Murphy has done, ripping two homers off Kershaw, and one each off Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Hendricks -- in the same postseason -- is virtually impossible.
To the Cubs' credit, they did get Murphy out three times, including a double play that ended the fifth inning. Hendricks even struck him out looking in the first, which drew a big roar from the Wrigley fans. Maybe they thought this night would be different.
After 108 years, the Cubs had to know better, especially with Murphy, who shares the same name as their accursed billy goat. But they shouldn't take it personally. Murphy savaged the Dodgers in identical fashion, and there's no safe strategy for pitching him right now.
On Sunday night, Murphy hooked a looping Arrieta curve inside the rightfield foul pole. But against Hendricks, his third-inning rocket announced where it was headed by the crack of the bat. The estimated distance was 431 feet, covered in a blink, and now Murphy is only two homers short of the all-time, single-playoff record, held by Beltran, Barry Bonds (2002) and Nelson Cruz (2011).
Murphy's sense of timing is perfect, as he'll be a free agent when this playoff run ends. Newsday's Marc Carig reported that the Mets might even be rethinking their plans regarding Murphy, now entertaining the idea of extending the $15.8-million qualifying offer.
Murphy was asked point-blank late Tuesday night about how much cash he thought he'd made for himself this October.
"That's an offseason question," he said. "Fortunately, right now, four teams don't have to answer offseason questions."
Thanks to Murphy, the Cubs will be fielding those questions in another day or so.