Murphy produces home run that matters
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, belted three home runs and wowed 39,638 fans and every player, coach and manager in the ballpark Sunday night.
David Murphy, trying to hone his swing in mid-May, produced the home run that mattered, lifting the Texas Rangers to an 11-8 victory over the Detroit Tigers and their amazing Cabrera.
And Murphy, whose three-run home run gave the Rangers an 8-7 lead in the bottom of the sixth -- after the Rangers had lost a one-run advantage in the top of the inning -- provided the game-changing moment the Rangers needed.
The Rangers were able to turn the game over to Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan. And even with Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the other lineup, the Rangers' trio at the back of the bullpen proved again automatic.
"We feel like we can do what we have to do," Ross said after running his career record to 8-0. "Our offense kept us in there. Murphy's home run was huge."
Yes, it was. The Rangers had just lost a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth when manager Ron Washington picked the lesser of two evils, pitching to Fielder with the bases loaded and two outs, rather than facing Cabrera, who already had two homers off starter Derek Holland.
Washington chose to intentionally walk Cabrera, matching up Fielder against left-handed reliever Michael Kirkman. Fielder scalded a three-run double for a 7-5 lead.
"That 3-4 is as good as it gets," Washington said of the Cabrera-Fielder tag team. "Fielder had been struggling in the series, but once he was challenged, you saw what he did."
The Rangers needed an answer, and Murphy delivered. Murphy was moved into the 2-hole Saturday with Ian Kinsler on the disabled list and Elvis Andrus going into the leadoff spot. The goal? Try to get Murphy's bat going. Washington explained why, noting it was a must to make Murphy a factor and maybe it could be done by getting him more involved in the game and letting him hit in the first inning.
"The bottom line is David has to get it going," Washington said. "Because if there's anything we could do, it would have gotten done. It actually falls in David's hands."
It was in his hands in the sixth inning. Murphy said Saturday that his favorite spot to hit in the lineup is second -- he did it in college at Baylor -- for the very reasons Washington mentioned.
Murphy was looking for a fastball with a 3-2 count against Tigers reliever Jose Ortega -- most hitters do. He hammered the inside fastball into the right-field seats for an 8-7 lead.
Murphy was pretty sure he got enough of the pitch to get it out.
"I lost it for a second," Murphy said. "I had to find it. I felt like I got enough of it that hopefully it was going to go out of the park."
Murphy could be turning a corner. He finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs, including an insurance run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning for a 10-7 lead. Six of his past 11 hits are for extra bases (three doubles and three homers). He is batting .325 over the past two weeks.
Murphy's winning home run could be the latest evidence that he is getting hot.
"It's always a good sign when you hit a home run," Murphy said. "I don't think you can take a bad swing and hit a home run."
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