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The postseason rise of 'Superman' Daniel Murphy

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy celebrates

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy celebrates the team's NLCS victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

CHICAGO - The crowd clustered behind the visitors' dugout at Wrigley Field roared at the sight of the players who had restored their hope. Matt Harvey came first, followed by Noah Syndergaard, followed by Jeurys Familia. David Wright would come later.

One by one, the Mets spilled onto the field, still soaked in champagne after beating the Cubs, 8-3, in NLCS Game 4 Wednesday night and winning the pennant. But as the procession unfolded, the fans held out hope that they might get a glimpse of the man who had pulled it all together.

"We want Mur-phy!'' they chanted. "We want Mur-phy!''

Moments later, they erupted again when Daniel Murphy emerged from the dugout. In his arms, he held his son, Noah. The loudest cheers belonged to them.

Asked later about how the Mets reached their first World Series since 2000, manager Terry Collins said: "We've got 'Superman Murphy' carrying us, so we were pretty lucky.''

So many things clicked into place for the Mets to win the fifth pennant in franchise history. Murphy's emergence and transformation to superhero status might be the unlikeliest break of all.

"With all of the stats and all of the sabermetrics, there's a place in this game for overachievers,'' Collins said. "And Dan Murphy's an overachiever. He plays to beat you.''

It wasn't all that long ago when the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS was lined up to be a casualty of the inevitable transition made by teams on the rise.

Murphy, 30, had been part of the old guard, a group of players who had suffered through the long darkness that followed the franchise's last NLCS appearance in 2006. Until this year, he had never played a full season for a team that finished with a .500 record.

Signs of change surrounded him. Dillon Gee, the Mets' Opening Day starter in 2014, wound up in the minor leagues. Jonathon Niese, the Opening Day starter in 2013, ended the year squeezed out of a rotation loaded with talented twenty-somethings with blazing fastballs.

The Mets appeared ready to push out Murphy as well. His defense at second base had always been, at best, adequate. His contact-oriented approach at the plate, until now, had strayed too far from their preferred method of hitting for more power.

Although he was an All-Star in 2013, Murphy got there through grit instead of grace. His many imperfections obscured his strengths.

Murphy will be a free agent at the end of this season, and the Mets intend to let him walk. But now his likely departure will look less like a phasing out and more like a player reaping the rewards of a sterling postseason. Consider the damage he brought on his own.

In the NLCS, nobody personified the Mets better than Murphy. In four games, the Mets scored as many runs (21) as the Cubs mustered hits. Not once did the Mets trail. Murphy homered in every game. He hit .529 and slugged 1.294, the highest mark ever in the NLCS.

"I try to rub my bats on him as much as I can,'' said Lucas Duda, who added that he attempted the tactic before Game 4, when he knocked in five runs before the Cubs had sent four men to the plate. "It's like he's on a different planet right now.''

In nine postseason games, Murphy is hitting .421 with seven homers and 11 RBIs. He is one home run shy of equaling the most homers ever in a postseason, joining Barry Bonds (2002), Carlos Beltran (2004) and Nelson Cruz (2011).

"That's just stupid,'' said Wright, who gave Murphy a bear hug on the field moments after the Mets won the pennant. "That's Jordan-esque.''

Hyperbole has become the norm for teammates discussing Murphy's exploits. "I get the chance to tell people I played with Babe Ruth,'' Curtis Granderson said.

Of course, Ruth never homered in six straight postseason games. In the history of baseball, only Murphy has.

"To come into the playoffs where runs are at a premium, again, I can't explain why the balls keep going out of the ballpark,'' he said. "But they do. And we keep winning ballgames, which is the most important part and the coolest part.''


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