On an otherwise forgettable night for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Tom Murphy continued to shine.
Of course, lately they have gotten used to that from their catcher.
Murphy went 1-for-2 with an RBI, a run and two walks in an 11-6 loss to the visiting Salt Lake Bees on Wednesday. He is now 30-for-54 in the month of July, one of those truly mind-boggling hot streaks that seemingly defy all explanation.
After all, Murphy was coming off an abysmal June (.178/.187/.329) where he struck out 28 times in 73 at-bats and only managed one walk and 13 hits in that span.
Now that month, and the mediocre May (.237/.266/.579) before it, are far in the past.
"Really it was just being able to identify what made me a good hitter to begin with," Murphy said of his turnaround. "Mentally I was here the whole time. I was confident in myself, but mechanically I wasn’t able to get my best swing off. So I made a few mechanical adjustments and that coupled with my already pretty strong mentality, it just clicked."
One sign of a hitter who is locked in is his ability to hit the ball to all fields, particularly the other way. Of course, Murphy was trying to do that all along.
"Yeah, but I’m doing it the right way (now)," he said. "Before I was trying to go the other way and mechanically it was just not working very well. To be honest with you, a lot of it is me trying to pull the ball right now that is allowing me to go the other way. I’m just seeing the pitch and it’s allowing me to get the barrel to it better and I’m hitting the balls true the other way. That’s the result of that."
Murphy has not had to sacrifice his power during the streak in July. He has seven of his team-leading 14 home runs plus five doubles and two triples. While the power is up, the strikeouts are down, with just 10 in his 54 at-bats this month, plus he has now drawn seven walks after just four in the previous two months.
"Pretty much the same thing, mechanically I’m getting myself in better position to get my better swing off but also see the ball," Murphy said of the uptick in power and the decline in strikeouts. "I’m (moving) closer to the strike zone, I keep my posture better and that’s just allowing me to see the ball better. When I get my pitch, I’m not missing it nearly as often and when it’s not there I’m not swinging at it."
Somewhere, every mother on the planet is nodding in appreciation at the thought that better posture means good things are happening. All jokes aside, Murphy has been able to accomplish all of it while still sharing time with Dustin Garneau behind the plate, often leading to a scenario of two games on, two off.
"To be honest with you, I don’t take them as off days, that’s pretty much how I’ve been able to keep it going," Murphy said. "I try and take at least four at-bats a game in the dugout where I’m going through my whole routine, just off in the corner of the dugout, taking pitches like I would during the game, it’s just kept me in the flow of things, kept me going."
Even Murphy’s teammates have been impressed by his hot streak.
"It’s scary, but a guy with that work ethic and a guy that works that hard, you love to see it," pitcher Jeff Hoffman said. "It can’t happen to a better guy. He’s constantly in there working, he’s constantly working with the pitchers defensively. It’s awesome to see for him."
Simply calling Murphy en fuego at this point does not do this run justice. Coming up with a new word to describe Murphy seems necessary, though not to his manager.
"No, we don’t!" Glenallen Hill said with a smile. "We just have to know that players go through these stretches where they are locked in. He’s very, very locked in at the plate. He’s also doing a great job catching, so his game is on right now. I hope he stays on for 15 years."
Around the Lab
- Right-hander Eddie Butler (4-2) had a dreadful start for Albuquerque on Wednesday, allowing nine runs, eight earned, on nine hits and three walks in just five innings.
- The top four hitters in Salt Lake’s lineup — Rafael Ortega, Sherman Johnson, Kaleb Cowart and former Isotope Nick Buss — were 10-for-19. Each of them had multi-hit games.
- Jordan Patterson went 1-for-4 with a solo home run. Ben Paulsen went 2-for-4 with two doubles, a run and a walk.
- Lefty Kyle Freeland (1-2, 5.10 ERA) will start Thursday for Albuquerque against Salt Lake southpaw Chris Jones (3-8, 7.71).