Veteran Murphy Provides Needed Tonic for Suddenly Healthy and Winning Rockies
After struggling through the first 15 days of the regular season, the Rockies are enjoying a revival. And the reason is pretty obvious.
They are getting healthy.
A team that at one point had seven of the projected 25 members of the roster on the disabled list arrives in Atlanta to open a three-game series on Friday having won eight of its last 10 games, including taking three of four from the Phillies at Coors Field last weekend and two of three from the Nationals in a just-completed home series.
Big deal? Well they went 0-5 in their first homestand of the season, being swept on three games by the Dodgers and losing both games to the Braves in a rain-shortened series.
That, however, was then.
This is now.
“I think our offense is getting there,” said right fielder Charlie Blackmon, who arrived in Atlanta with an eight-game hitting streak, including a fourth-inning home run on Wednesday. “I think we’ve had some really big contributions from guys who aren’t really the likely characters. Guys like (Raimel) Tapia, who’s been really, really good, and Tony Wolters, who’s been very good.”
Tapia has gone 10-for-26 with 10 RBI, and a three-game home run streak in his last nine games, raising his average from .194 to its current .281. And Wolters has gone 8-for-20 in his last six games, raising his average from .200 to .280.
But there is more than a surge from Tapia and Wolters.
This is a roster that has been reinforced first with the activation of David Dahl and Ryan McMahon from the disabled list just in time for the just-completed seven-game home stand, and then the return of Daniel Murphy, who went on the disabled list with a broken tip to his left index finger after the second game of the season, in the homestand finale.
And what has the return of the three meant?
Well, McMahon has hit .296 since his return with five runs scored, two home runs and six RBI, spending time in the No. 5 spot, and Dahl has hit .385, scoring four runs and driving in another.
Then there is the veteran Murphy, the Rockies off-season free-agent addition, signing a two-year, $24 million deal. He didn’t return to the lineup until Wednesday, and while the box score shows him only going 1-for-4, what the numbers don’t show is that walk he worked in the bottom of the third.
With Trevor Story having tripled with one out, Murphy came to the plate, and worked the count for that walk, which was more than a small part of what became a four-run rally and sent the Rockies on their way to a 6-4 win over the Phillies.
Nolan Arenado followed Murphy with a sacrifice fly, cut the lead the Phillies had taken in the top of the third to 3-1, and them came an RBI double by Dahl, walk of McMahon and go-ahead double from Raimel Tapia that gave the Rockies a 4-3 lead they did not relinquish.
“After Trevor tripled, here’s Murphy with a guy on third and less than two outs, and he took a walk,” said manager Bud Black. “He could have expanded the strike zone and tried selfishly to get an RBI, but he didn’t.
“Then we had Nolan (Arenado’s) sacrifice fly, McMahon another walk, and Tapia with another hard-hit ball (for a double). Those are the things we talk about with Murphy that rub off when he has a good at-bat.”
Murphy is one of those exceptions to the rule.
Since turning 31 on April 1, 2016 he has improved with age, ignoring the normal regression that begins at the age of 32.
He has been amazingly consistent -- against left-handed and right-handed pitchers, home or away, day or night. He has delivered with nobody on base, and gets on base with nobody on. And he hits with runners in scoring position even better than with nobody on base.
His has improved in virtually every category from his pre-31-year-old seasons, in which he had a composite .298 average and .331 on-base percentage. And his approach is a foundation for a youthful lineup in which Ian Desmond (33) is the only regular other than Murphy who has even celebrated a 30th birthday.