Daniel Murphy was called several things Sunday after yet another statement game against his former team.
There were the usual adjectives, such as “unbelievable” and “amazing,” from Nationals manager Dusty Baker. Mets manager Terry Collins called him a student of hitting. Teammate Jayson Werth called him exceptional.
Winning pitcher Gio Gonzalez likened him to something out of a science fiction book.
“He’s definitely a cyborg right now,” he said. “He can see everything. That guy’s on every ball, every pitch.”
If Murphy is the main character in a sci-fi novel, then his two-run homer in the Nationals’ 3-2 win Sunday was another chapter in a book the Mets probably don’t want to be reading.
After the Mets let the versatile infielder walk in free agency, Murphy signed a three-year, $37.5-million deal with the Nationals.
Even after a historic postseason in which Murphy hit seven home runs in 14 games, the Mets’ concerns were justifiable. His age (now 31), coupled with his defensive deficiencies and declining range, made the contract risky. But the Nationals were willing buyers and have reaped the benefits.
Murphy is an MVP candidate and an All-Star for the second time in his eight-year career. He’s hitting a major league-best .348 with 25 doubles, 17 home runs, 66 RBIs and a .985 OPS.
“I don’t think I would have thought I’d be doing what I’m doing at the start of the season, so yeah, I would say I’m surprised,” Murphy said. “But I’m very humbled and excited by it.”
Against the Mets, Murphy has been unstoppable. His two-run homer off lefthander Steven Matz in the top of the first inning gave him seven homers and 21 RBIs in 13 games against his former team. He’s hitting a whopping .423 in those games and has hit safely in all 13.
Mets pitchers simply haven’t found a surefire way to get him out. “Dan Murphy will have a game plan each and every at-bat,” Collins said. “You’ve got to pitch him in, but you’ve got to pitch him away, too. You’ve got to throw him soft, and you’ve got to throw him hard. You can’t go at Dan Murphy just one way.”
Collins said before the game that Murphy took Mets hitting coach Kevin Long’s advice to stand closer to the plate and pull the ball more last season. Long’s teachings were powerful — literally. Murphy was a driving force for the Mets in the 2015 postseason. Now he’s a large part of why they trail the Nationals in the NL East standings.
But a six-game deficit is far from insurmountable, so the Mets have to be invested in reading this book — with a main character they know all too well — to its conclusion.
Daniel Murphy has made sure pretty much everything has gone wrong for the Mets against the Nationals this season: