I haven't broken it to Joshua yet (or Emily), but an hour or so ago I decided the boy is being renamed. From now on he's Daniel Fry. Daniel Murphy Fry. Actually, he's Daniel Murphy Johan Brian Carlos David Luis Fry, but Daniel will cover it.
Murphy — the otherwise inevitable “Murph” doesn't seem to fit a kid who insists he's Daniel, not Dan — started his Met life as a cult hero: He went 10 for his first 20, a streak that was clearly unsustainable. But he also showed us that he could work a count and make contact, and demonstrated a welcome seriousness of purpose (there's that “Daniel,” again), all of which suggested it might sustain him when he inevitably regressed to the mean.
Regress to the mean? He regressed to the cruel, to the vicious, to the pitiless, riding an 0-for-13 streak into tonight's game, which only meant more than any other game in his young professional life. Struck out looking in the second on a tough 3-2 pitch, failing to move Ryan Church along from second with nobody out. (Church would of course be marooned at third.) Lined out in the fourth, the inning in which no hit would fall. Hit into a double play in the sixth. Played a Pat Burrell liner into a double to start off the Phils' sixth, the inning that would show Johan Santana at his hold-the-line finest. And then, stuck on 0-for-16, he walked to the plate in the eighth inning of a tie game. On the mound? Just Brad Lidge, he of the lethal fastball and slider, he who was somehow invulnerable this year despite his home park being the size of a Pinto.
Was Daniel Murphy scared? When you know the strike zone and can make contact and have made a specialty of meaning business with a bat in your hands, you're not scared. And this was the night — finally! — for the Phils' bullpen to regress to the mean. Lidge unleashed a slider that flattened out instead of biting, and was redirected at high velocity down the right-field line. It meant the go-ahead run. It meant the continuing heroics of Carlos Delgado wouldn't go to waste. It meant we could all forget (as best we can) about seven-run leads that turned into nothing. It meant I let out a war whoop in the New Jersey night. And tomorrow it'll mean I go to breakfast here on LBI on a sunny day with my Met shirt on and a big smile for the Phillie fans who had big smiles this morning. Because, of course, it meant first place.