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Sizzling Murphy continues torrid pace in ‘Topes’ win

Tom Murphy is congratulated as he returns to the dugout after hitting a home run for Isotopes Thursday night. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Tom Murphy is congratulated as he returns to the dugout after hitting a home run for Isotopes Thursday night.
(Greg Sorber/Journal)

Tom Murphy has no absolutely interest in seeing July come to an end.

Why would he?

By any measure it’s been an incredible month for the Albuquerque Isotopes catcher. Murphy stayed hotter than the city’s sizzling weather Thursday, going 3-for-4 with a home run and a double in the ‘Topes’ 8-3 win over visiting Salt Lake.

Good as his night was, Thursday was just par for July’s course for Murphy. He’s raised his batting average more than 100 points since June ended and has posted video game-style numbers along the way.

Among them: He’s batting .569 for the month with eight home runs, six doubles, two triples and 21 RBIs. Not bad for a guy who was hitting .208 when June ended.

Still, Murphy’s not quite ready to call it the best month of his baseball life.

“My sophomore year of college (at Buffalo), the whole season was kind of that way,” he said with a shrug. “But this month has been a lot of fun.”

Murphy’s performance wasn’t limited to hitting Thursday as he helped starting pitcher Kyle Freeland through a strong 61/3 innings of work. Freeland allowed just two runs on seven hits and struck out seven without issuing a walk before running into something of a tense situation in the seventh.

It started earlier when Freeland became frustrated with Salt Lake’s Quintin Berry, who continually stepped out of the batter’s box as Freeland began his motion. Freeland struck Berry out in the fourth inning, but the Bees outfielder got even with a triple in the seventh and appeared to say something to Freeland.

Albuquerque's Jordan Patterson dives over the top of Salt Lake's Kaleb Cowart while trying to catch an errant throw during the 'Topes win Thursday. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Albuquerque’s Jordan Patterson dives over the top of Salt Lake’s Kaleb Cowart while trying to catch an errant throw during the ‘Topes win Thursday.
(Greg Sorber/Journal)

Murphy came to his pitcher’s defense and had to be held back from Berry. Warnings were issued to both dugouts before things calmed down.

“Testosterone was flying around everywhere,” Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said, “which is part of the game.”

But when it comes to provoking Murphy …

“Murphy can handle bears,” Hill said. “When a guy can wrestle with bears, be careful. You don’t want him getting too far off the reservation.”

For his part, Murphy downplayed the incident and said both sides played roles. He won’t hesitate to protect a pitcher, however.

“A catcher’s got to lead the way and stand up for his pitchers,” Murphy said. “Whenever those situations arise, I’ll be right there.”

Murphy, who immediately got in a workout after Thursday’s game, said a few technical changes in his batting style have aided his remarkable turnaround. They include standing straighter in the batter’s box and moving closer to the plate.

Extended success has also bred confidence, but it hasn’t prevented Murphy’s perfectionist streak from keeping him awake at night.

“My parents can attest to that,” he said with a laugh. “They get a lot of texts at 2 in the morning asking, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ At least they’re not getting so many now.”

Murphy’s 15th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the first inning, proved to be the game’s big hit Thursday. It gave the Isotopes a 3-0 lead and they never looked back.

Jordan Patterson also homered for Albuquerque, hitting a long solo shot for his eighth of the season.

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