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Sometimes Daniel Murphy Amazes Even Himself

From our vantage point in the front rows of Citi Field’s third level. Emily, my father-in-law and I had a pretty good view of what was going on down there on the field during the first inning of Monday night’s game. We’d watched Jon Niese [1] convince three Braves to play patty-cake with the infield, and now we were watching the Mets continue to frustrate us. Much as they had against the Yankees early in Sunday’s debacle, the Mets seemed determine to squeeze as little offense out of a good situation as possible.

Curtis Granderson [2] had walked, continuing his remarkable transformation at an age when few baseball players are capable of changing their spots. Daniel Murphy [3] had dropped a single into right, followed by a similarly soft hit from Yoenis Cespedes [4]. But then Lucas Duda [5] hit a ball basically straight up, which didn’t benefit anybody except Shelby Miller [6].

Up came Travis d’Arnaud [7], who hit a little bouncer to Adonis Garcia [8] at third.

Garcia flipped it into Daniel Castro [9] at second, with Cespedes bearing down on him, and then everything sputtered and got weird. The ball was lying on the infield, Granderson was across the plate, umpires were doing things, and then several Braves converged around a lone Met in camo and pinstripes.

I couldn’t figure out the specifics of what had happened down there, but the general issue was immediately clear: Murph had Murphed.

But this was a bizarre one even by the standards of our own lovable avatar of chaos [10]. Up in the stands we all shrugged and muttered; that Murphy, whaddya gonna do? Down on the field, Murph gave his gear to Tim Teufel [11] and slunk morosely around the infield like a dog who’d just been found surrounded by shredded throw pillows. Later, looking at the replay on SNY, I still couldn’t figure out what Murph thought he was doing. He couldn’t have assumed it was a double play, because he was (inexplicably) turned around between second and third watching what was happening behind him. He saw Castro hadn’t thrown to first … and wandered onto the infield grass anyway. Did he think Duda’s pop had been the second out?

Gary Cohen was so flummoxed he missed the play, which pretty much never happens, while Keith Hernandez [12] just gave a little moan of despair at finding himself in such a pitiful fallen world.

In the top of the third, the relevant question wasn’t about Murph’s recent bout of Murphing, but whether Niese could avoid Niesing.

Niese had been rolling along, mixing his pitches so effectively that I considered the underwhelming Atlanta lineup and had That Thought, followed by noting to Emily’s dad that Niese was absolutely pouring in strikes.

Which he immediately and perversely stopped doing. Having retired the first eight Braves without so much as breathing hard, Niese threw four straight balls to Miller, hitting a Leiteresque .059 and nearing the end of a full campaign as a starting pitcher without a single RBI. He then gave up a hit to Michael Bourn [13], Castro was safe on Wilmer Flores [14]‘s error, and up came Freddie Freeman [15] with Niese stalking around the mound.

Stalking around the mound is a danger sign with Niese; it strongly suggests that he has lost his cool, which can soon be followed by his focus, which can soon be followed by whatever lead he’s been given, which can soon be followed by the game.

Freeman belted the first pitch, which knuckled in the air — and wound up in Cespedes’s glove.

Niese had tried to Niese, but been given a reprieve — which he took full advantage of. He started off the fourth by walking Garcia and surrendering a hit to the ageless A.J. Pierzynski [16], but then made a nifty grab on a Nick Swisher [17] bouncer back to the mound, starting a double play. Starting the sixth, he made an even better play, sprinting to first as Duda collapsed on top of a Castro grounder and flung it to first for the out.

And Murph would be heard from again, as he so often is. He rammed a first-pitch double off Andrew McKirahan [18] with nobody out in the seventh, the big hit the Mets have been missing for several days. That got the Murph-O-Meter back to neutral, wrapped up a 4-0 Mets win [19], and brought several hundred thousand Met fans in off their ledges, or at least convinced them to stop hanging their toes over the edge while screaming about T@m G1av!ne [20] and Luis Ayala [21].

Not a bad night’s work, bouts of chaos notwithstanding.