Saturday, July 6, 2013

Daniel Murphy's Fielding Cycle and Kirk Nieuwenhuis' Offensive Outburst

On Friday night, the Mets hammered the Milwaukee Brewers, defeating them by the final score of 12-5.  The Bad News Brewers committed three errors on the field and a number of mental errors on the bases.  Despite the Brew Crew's valiant effort to become the butt of David Letterman's next Top Ten list, it was two Mets players who really stood out.  One went 0-for-6 but took part in a fielding oddity, while the other reached base all six times he came up to the plate, something very few Mets had ever accomplished.

Daniel Murphy did not have a good night at the dish, going hitless in six plate appearances on a night the Mets collected 14 hits.  But he did make up for it on the field, especially after committing what appeared to be a costly error in the first inning.

In the second inning, with the Mets holding a 5-2 lead, pitcher Zack Wheeler got his Brewers' counterpart Johnny Hellweg to hit a ground ball to Murphy.  Murphy threw out Hellweg at first base to end the inning.

One inning later, Murphy was involved in a huge play, one that helped the Mets maintain their three-run lead.  With Norichika Aoki on third base and Carlos Gomez on first, the Brewers attempted a double steal.  But Murphy wisely cut off catcher John Buck's throw to second and fired a strike back to Buck, who tagged out Aoki as he was trying to score.  Murphy's heads-up assist kept the Brewers off the scoreboard in the third.

Murphy's defensive acumen was showcased in the seventh inning, when he participated in two consecutive key plays.  With the Mets holding on to an 8-4 lead, Aoki led off the inning with a single off reliever Greg Burke.  The next batter, Jean Segura, then hit a grounder to Murphy, who threw out Aoki at second base.  Carlos Gomez then followed with a long fly ball to deep center that bounced off the wall.  Segura scored easily to cut the Mets' lead to three.  But Murphy, after taking the relay throw from centerfielder Juan Lagares, threw a laser to third baseman David Wright, who placed the tag on the sliding Gomez for the second out of the inning.

So did you notice what Murphy did?  He threw out Johnny Hellweg at first base, Norichika Aoki at home plate, Aoki again at second base, and Carlos Gomez at third base.  Murphy may not have gotten a hit at the plate, but he was a big hit on the field, collecting a rare "fielding cycle" by throwing out runners at every base.  No records on fielding cycles are kept (after all, I just created the term), but it must be a rarity and is certainly an oddity.

Speaking of rarities, Mets' rightfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis also had a wonderful game at the plate.  Nieuwenhuis had six plate appearances and reached base in every one of them, collecting four hits and two walks.  He also stole a base, scored three runs and had a career-high five RBI.

In reaching base six times, Nieuwenhuis accomplished a feat that hadn't been done by a Met in 13 seasons.  The last Met to reach base six times in a nine-inning game was Mike Piazza, who went 2-for-6 with four walks in a 12-8 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on May 27, 2000.  That came less than a year after Edgardo Alfonzo also reached base six times in a nine-inning game against the Houston Astros, although Alfonzo collected six hits in his special game.

Prior to last night, only three Mets had ever had a game in which they collected four hits, three runs, five RBI and a stolen base.  The first Met to do so was Claudell Washington, who went 4-for-5 with three runs, five RBI and a steal against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 22, 1980.  Seven years later, Darryl Strawberry torched the Chicago Cubs for four hits, five runs, five RBI and threw in a stolen base for good measure on August 16, 1987 - the same game in which the Mets scored a team record 23 runs.  Finally, David Wright joined the club on August 10, 2005, when he lit up Padres pitchers for four hits, three runs, six RBI and a steal.  But none of those players reached base six times in their memorable games.  Washington and Wright reached base four times, while Strawberry was a baserunner five times.  Nieuwenhuis is now the fourth player in this exclusive club, and the only one who reached base six times in his club-making effort.

The Mets had a number of contributors in Friday night's 12-5 victory over the Brewers.  Zack Wheeler got out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the fifth inning to qualify for the victory.  Ike Davis, in his first game back from his one-month Vegas vacation, went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI.  Eric Young, Jr. collected two hits, scored three runs and stole a base as the Mets' table setter.  And Juan Lagares continued to contribute defensively while recording his first three-RBI game in the majors.

All of those players had outstanding games against Milwaukee.  But Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis had performances that had rarely, if ever, been seen before by a player wearing a Mets uniform.  As the old saying goes, if you watch this game long enough, you may see something you've never seen before.  With their performances on the field last night, Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis certainly did their part to make that statement true.

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