Daniel Murphy powers Mets to World Series with October run for the ages

CHICAGO -- It was his final swing of a series for the historians, the poets and the ages.

It was his final swing of the National League Championship Series, and the baseball roared off Daniel Murphy's bat like an Airbus lifting off the runway at O'Hare.

As it split the night air over Wrigley Field, you could hear 42,227 people gasp. And the looks on their faces told the story of Murphy's seventh home run of this magical October, of one more ball leaving one more ballpark for the sixth postseason game in a row.

You could see the shock, witness the disbelief, watch their mouths utter expressions like, "No frigging way." This couldn't be happening. This couldn't be possible. But it was.

Well, if it's any consolation to all those fans of the home team, Murphy's teammates on your 2015 National League champions, the New York Mets, shared every bit of that disbelief. They were on their way to the World Series. And he was driving the bus.

"Words can't describe it right now," said Michael Cuddyer, as the Freixenet Cordon Negro overflowed in the clubhouse of a team that had just swept the Chicago Cubs without ever trailing for one pitch, finishing it off with a stress-free 8-3 win Wednesday night. "The way he's playing, the way he's swinging the bat, if I tried to describe it with words, I'd be doing an understatement. So I'm not even going to try."

Still we wonder, though. What do these guys say to one another in the dugout every time one more baseball flies through the sky and lands in somebody's popcorn box?

"Now? We don't say anything," Cuddyer said. "We just have open mouths, staring at each other. Really, there's nothing else that we can say. It's not surprising. It's not shocking. We just open our mouths and stare."

Well, join the rest of the human race. At a certain point, a player like this reaches a stage where he takes that leap from hot to superhero. And that's what we have on our hands right now -- a man who has gone from being a good, but not great, big-league hitter to an official October legend. All in a span of two staggering weeks. Wow.

"The guy's on a different planet right now," Lucas Duda said.

"I've not seen anything like this, I don't think, ever," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

"I got a chance to play with Babe Ruth," Curtis Granderson said with a laugh. "That's what I'm going to tell people when I get old and gray. It's going to be one of those things where people are going to hear about it and not necessarily believe it. But I got a chance to witness it firsthand. And it's been amazing."

But here's the deal: It has been more than amazing. It has reached the realm of the unprecedented. It's unprecedented because no one has ever done it. And it's unprecedented because Murphy spent his first eight seasons in the big leagues being one player -- and then spent October as a whole other player:

Namely, the greatest postseason hitter who ever lived.

Here is the part of this opus where we do our best to put what this man is doing in some sort of perspective. So fasten your seat belt. Here we go:

• Hank Aaron hit six postseason home runs in his whole career (in 17 games and 74 plate appearances). Daniel Murphy has now hit postseason home runs in six games in a row.

• No player has ever homered in six games in a row in any of the Mets' 54 regular seasons. But Daniel Murphy has done it in his very first postseason.

• Here's just a small list of players who have never hit a home run in six games in a row in the regular season: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard. And Daniel Murphy has homered in six in a row in the postseason.

• Then again, it's almost easier to list the guys who have had a streak like this. Over the last nine years, only three players (Nolan Arenado this year, Chris Davis in 2012 and Carlos Pena in 2010) homered in six games in a row in any stretch of any regular season. And Daniel Murphy has now done it in six postseason games in a row.

• This is a man who had never hit five home runs in any calendar month over any of his eight previous regular seasons. And he now has hit seven in October -- and become the first player to homer in every game of a best-of-seven postseason series. Hey, of course he has.

We could go on, but you've probably gotten the idea. Who does this? Certainly not a guy who had homered in only two games in a row once. Certainly not a guy who had spent his career hitting a home run every 54 at-bats -- and then got to October and started pounding homers once in every six at-bats.

But somehow, this happened. Somehow, he has done this. And he has no better explanation for it than anyone else on this planet.

Over and over Wednesday night, America's most inquisitive media minds asked him to lay it out for us. Over and over, Murphy had the same answer: "I can't explain it."

"I'm excited to be able to do something to help us win ballgames," he said, after accepting his NLCS MVP trophy. "But I can't explain it."

There is an explanation, though. Murphy's hitting coaches, Kevin Long and Pat Roessler, pointed out to him earlier this year how much different his numbers look when he pulls the ball compared to when he just tries to put the ball in play. Then they began working on a way for him to drive the ball to right more regularly than he had for most of his career. Well, voila. You might say it has worked.

"Look at his OPS when he pulls the ball (1.005 this year), and it's way better than when he hits the ball the other way (.587)," Roessler said. "His miss rate is only like eight percent. I mean, his miss rate is ridiculously low. So if you're going to swing, you might as well swing for damage, because you can always put the ball in play and flip one to left field.

"Beyond that, he's got this mentality: Just win the next pitch, win the next pitch, win the next pitch. And he has taken that to a new level."

Hey, you think? So far in this postseason, he has piled up more hits (16) than swings and misses (12). And he's now up to seven games in a row with at least one hit, one run and one RBI. Only two players in postseason history have ever had a streak like that. The other is Lou Gehrig.

How locked in is this dude? So locked in, that on his home run Wednesday, he was sitting on a change-up from Fernando Rodney -- and was still able to drive a 96-mph fastball over the ivy. Seriously?

"He threw another heater," Murphy said, "and I just swung. ... And then when I hit it, I said, 'Oh my goodness.' "

Yeah, that about covers it -- for family-friendly audiences anyway. Oh. My. Goodness.

We're now at a point where only one man in history has ever hit home runs in more games in a single postseason than Daniel Murphy. That would be Barry Bonds, who homered in eight games in 2002.

Of course, Bonds was coming off two regular seasons in which he'd bopped a combined 119 homers. Whereas Murphy has hit 62 regular-season homers in his career. Making this even more incomprehensible.

"I saw Bonds in the 2002 World Series, where you did not want to throw a baseball to him as a pitcher," Maddon said. "Right now it's just incredible: Line drive to left, homer to right or homer to center. He looks like he's going to hit the ball hard on every pitch."

And there's a reason for that, of course. Because that's about all he has done. As his teammates continue to watch with awe.

"You see this a lot in the postseason," Mets reliever Tyler Clippard said. "Somebody's got to get hot like that for a team to get to this point. Well, we have that guy. And we're jumping on his back. He's been absolutely out of his mind for us. And it's been awesome to watch."

Well, if they've enjoyed the view, here's the good news: The show isn't over. The Mets now have a World Series to play. And they're bringing along the greatest postseason hitter who ever lived.