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Don’t look now, but Daniel Murphy is heating up again

After struggling through a recent offensive slump, Chicago Cubs second baseman Daniel Murphy is leading the team’s offensive charge late.

When the Chicago Cubs pulled the trigger on adding veteran infielder Daniel Murphy, we all knew what we were getting. He made it pretty difficult to forget, given he carries a career .919 OPS against the North Siders.

Lo and behold, Chicago picked up wins in his first eight games as a Cub, and it appeared as if he was the missing piece in an inconsistent Cubs’ offense. But, then, he looked as lost as the rest of his teammates at the plate as the bats went ice-cold in the back half of their 30 games in 30 days stretch in September.

After clubbing a leadoff home run in Friday’s series-opening loss to the White Sox, the always direct Murphy offered up this pearl of wisdom.

“Simply put, I’m getting more base hits,” Murphy told MLB.com. “I got my teeth kicked in for five or six days.”

He’s certainly not wrong, either. Over the last seven days, Murphy is batting .421/.450/.789 with a team-leading seven runs. His 1.239 OPS in the past week trails only Kyle Schwarber, who homered and doubled on Sunday, raising his OPS over the same stretch of time to a staggering 1.583.

Why Murphy is so critical to this team

In my opinion – and in no way do I even propose to know as much as anyone pulling the levers and pressing the buttons for the Chicago Cubs, Daniel Murphy is the guy to set the table. He’s capable of jumping on a ‘get-ahead’ first pitch – or he might grind a seven or eight-pitch at-bat to get the guys behind him a look early in a ballgame.

Granted, there’s a pretty drastic divide in his numbers when matched up against left-handers. He hits righties to an OPS more than 300 points higher than southpaws, which undoubtedly will lead to some postseason lineup juggling by Maddon. But that doesn’t negate the fact he works counts well and, more often than not, gives you a professional at-bat.

But what really makes him valuable out of that leadoff spot is the guy hitting behind him, Ben Zobrist. Even if the 37-year-old utility man doesn’t see anything before digging in, he’s going to see the ball better than maybe anyone in the Cubs lineup. Giving him a look before he even steps to the plate can lead to big things (as we saw in Sunday’s win, when Zo collected three hits against the Sox).

One week to go

In his career, Daniel Murphy has been remarkably consistent – from early April to late September. But it’s still worth nothing that his second-best OPS by month comes in, you guessed it, September.

Chicago wraps up the regular season over the next six days at Wrigley Field. The magic number to clinch a third consecutive National League Central crown sits at five. After breaking out the lumber in each of the last two contests, this is their chance to put the Brewers away by doing what they do best: grinding out at-bats early and getting to starters before they can settle in.

Next: Hendricks dominates as Cubs pull closer to division title

And it all starts with the guy at the top.

 

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