2. Daniel Murphy’s Costly Error in Game 4
With each decisive blast, Daniel Murphy was adding another zero to his ledger by entering the offseason and free agency period on a tear for the ages: his ability to hit a homer in six straight games was an all-time postseason record. In winning the NLCS MVP, hitting .529 with 4 home runs and 6 runs batted in (crushing the ball to a blistering 1.249 OPS), Murphy faced the disheartening prospect of a six-day layoff impeding on his assault on the record books.
Consequently, Murphy’s layoff did, in fact, have an adverse effect on his propensity at the plate: for the Series, Murphy hit .150, managing only three hits in twenty at-bats. He did not muster an extra-base hit, and struck out seven times despite drawing five walks. Worse yet, Murphy’s power outage at the plate paled in comparison to what he could not pull off in the field in Game 4.
With Familia forced to enter the game for a chance at a five-out save, the pressure was on to erase Tyler Clippard’s two walks after a lead-off ground out by Alcides Escobar. But just like that, Murphy charged past a routine ground ball from Eric Hosmer, allowing Ben Zobrist to score, tying the game at three-all. The gaffe opened the flood gates for two more runs to score in the inning, effacing a two-homer night from Michael Conforto and a great outing from Steven Matz, whose curveball was on before a shaky start to the sixth inning forced Terry Collins to resort to Jonathon Niese.
The Murphy error exploited a ghastly lack of range and shoddy glove of Murphy’s that Met fans already knew was looming, although nobody could have foreseen in just how crucial a moment Murphy’s ineptitude in the field would surface. To add insult to injury, ESPN.com reported that Murphy’s error was “the sixth-costliest in World Series history.” While not quite Bucknerian, Murphy’s mistake most certainly tops the list of Met postseason lowlights.
According to FOX Sports and Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, the Royals’ gameplan was to expose Murphy’s glove, force Lucas Duda and David Wright to make throws, and pressure Travis d’Arnaud to adjust to a Kansas City club with a penchant to run and steal bags (the Met catcher had not thrown out a single runner since September 30).
Clearly, the Royal blueprint worked to positive effect, as many of their rallies hinged on forcing the Mets’ defense to back itself into corners, evidenced largely in the Royals’ first offensive play in Game 1 that set the tone for the entire Series: an inside-the-park home run from Escobar triggered by Yoenis Cespedes’s inability to make a play on a long fly ball that hit the outfield wall, thanks in part to the Met centerfielder kicking the misplayed ball beyond Conforto’s reach.
Unfortunately, Murphy’s Bill Buckner moment and abysmal performance at the plate will hinder any chance he has of resigning with the club that drafted him in 2006, with Dilson Herrera waiting to claim Murphy’s position sooner than later to sure up a middle infield that was already hurting with Ruben Tejada out since the NLDS.