Daniel Murphy ‘exactly what we need right now,’ say Cubs, who lose 2-1 to Tigers
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DETROIT — If there was a downside to the Cubs’ surprising waiver trade for second baseman Daniel Murphy on Tuesday, it was that he couldn’t arrive fast enough to help the sagging lineup in a 2-1 loss to the Tigers.
Or that the deal couldn’t get done in time to help Sunday against the Pirates. Or Saturday. Or last week.
“We were certainly looking to jump-start the offense,” team president Theo Epstein said after finalizing the deal that sent minor-league infielder Andruw Monasterio and a player to be named or cash to the Nationals.
“Daniel Murphy has as good at-bats as anyone in the game. We’re not in a place offensively as a group where we can look past something like that and pretend it wouldn’t benefit us.”
Because the deal was made after the July 31 non-waiver deadline, it was trickier to acquire the three-time All-Star with postseason pedigree. The Cubs had to win the claim after the Nats put Murphy on revocable waivers before a trade could be negotiated. Any of 13 teams in the league could’ve blocked the deal simply by putting in a claim.
“I was surprised, and I think everybody probably was, to get that great an offensive player at this point in the season,” said Ben Zobrist, whose infield time likely takes a hit with the move. “We could use a little boost, and hopefully he can provide it.”
Shortstop Addison Russell — mired in a deep slump — is expected to head to the 10-day disabled list Wednesday because of the sore shoulder that has bothered him for more than a week and forced him out of the lineup against the Tigers. That move would make room on the roster for Murphy.
The trade serves as insurance for Russell and third baseman Kris Bryant (on the DL with a sore left shoulder), but Murphy’s left-handed bat also figures to play big for a team that should face no more than seven left-handed starters in its last 37 games.
But mostly it was about nights like Tuesday. The Cubs almost impossibly played a fifth consecutive game in which their only scoring came on a solo home run. That’s a major-league first.
“Pretty cool. Setting records. For the wrong reasons,” deadpanned Anthony Rizzo, whose sixth-inning homer — after falling down in the batter’s box — accounted for the Cubs’ run of the day.
“This game will knock you down,” he added with no apparent sense of irony. “But I feel we’re just too good. When you hit rock bottom as a unit like this . . . I think we’re going to come out with a screaming vengeance.”
Their pitching has allowed only seven runs during that 2-3 stretch — including another seven strong innings from Kyle Hendricks.
Murphy can’t arrive soon enough.
“He plays [Wednesday],” manager Joe Maddon said.
Murphy, a notorious Cubs killer, joins a team that has scored one or fewer runs in six of its last seven games — and missed making it seven of eight by the margin of David Bote’s final-pitch grand slam Aug. 12.
“I’m just happy he got to us,” said Maddon, who expects to bat Murphy near the top of his order. “It’s exactly what we need right now.”
Murphy, 33, opened the season on the DL (knee surgery) but has hit .300 with a .341 on-base percentage and 15 extra-base hits since being activated in mid-June.
Not that anyone expects him to carry the Cubs — even if he is a career .413 hitter at Wrigley Field with a 1.142 OPS in 28 games.
Well, most don’t anyway.
“Um, I’ve seen Daniel carry a team before,” said Rizzo, flashing back to the 2015 National League Championship Series when Murphy went 9-for-17 with four homers in the Mets’ four-game sweep of the Cubs. “It’s going to take me a little while to get over seeing him every day after the nightmares I’ve had.”