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Why Daniel Murphy Rules: Second Baseman's Bat Leads Mets To World Series

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

If you've read or heard about Daniel Murphy this week, his name has been paired with every he's-awesome cliche you can think of - red-hot, epic, heroic. The second baseman for the New York Mets led his team to the World Series by hitting a home run in six consecutive games. That's a record. Now, here's how Jonah Keri, writer for Grantland, put it - (reading) Daniel Murphy is an exploding supernova, dropped into the heart of an erupting volcano, plowing through a bowl of hallucinogenic chili.

Here to explain what exactly is in a bowl of hallucinogenic chili, or at least why Daniel Murphy rules, is Jonah Keri. Hey there, Jonah.

JONAH KERI: Well, the answer to that question is that's a "Simpsons" reference. That's a reference to when Homer ends up eating some hallucinogenic chili and then goes off on a vision quest. And I try to tap into the deep well of "Simpsons" nerditry (ph) that resides in my brain and combine that with natural enthusiasm to color my baseball analysis.

CORNISH: (Laughter). So you're talking vision quest. Is there any sign from the gods that Daniel Murphy was about to pull this off?

KERI: Well, if you look at his tendencies in the past, there have been subtle signs. He's always been a good fastball-hitter. This year, he hit over 300 in those situations, with some power. So you could say that this is kind of the 99th percentile outcome of that skill, that hitting with some power and hitting a lot of singles and doubles has simply turned into home runs in the postseason. It's not a likely scenario, but in this case, it's come true for him. And obviously, it's been a boon for the Mets.

CORNISH: You know, when's the last time you can think of someone who's pulled off what Daniel Murphy's done here?

KERI: It's a great question. And actually, if I think of some of the most dramatic playoff performances of all time, some of them have happened by players that you might not have expected, but for a totally different reason. So for instance, two of the greatest hitters of the past several decades are Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. They, of course, come with their own share of baggage, but the bottom line in this particular case is that they did not perform well in the playoffs for quite a while - for several years. And then, all of a sudden, they did. In the case of Barry Bonds, in 2002, he absolutely ripped apart everybody in sight and almost single-handedly led the Giants to win the World Series. They ultimately lost to the Angels, but he was great. In the case of Rodriguez, in 2009, he put the team on his back and led them through a very rugged postseason and played exceptionally well. So it's one of those things where, when you have a star player who maybe doesn't perform well in the playoffs, usually you give him enough time, and he'll come around.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, the Mets have already made it to the World Series, so they're awaiting the winner of the American League championship. Kansas City leads Toronto three games to two. We've got game six playing out tonight. You know, with a series lead and the home field, are the Royals essentially a sure bet to return to the World Series?

KERI: No, they're not. If you look at how this series has gone so far, the Royals' offense has been really, really good, but a lot of that has to do with how they're hitting with runners in scoring position. The Royals, in this series, are hitting over 450 with runners in scoring position. Now, you could say, well, that's great; of course that means they're going to win. Sure, but if that skill or a bout of luck were to regress a little, that could potentially favor Toronto, which, just in terms of raw hitting talent, is probably a little bit better than Kansas City is.

CORNISH: Jonah Keri, watch your chili, and thanks so much for talking with us.

KERI: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.