ARLINGTON -- Nelson Cruz came off the disabled list on Tuesday and could soon be back in the Rangers' lineup. Manager Ron Washington said that won't affect David Murphy's playing time."If he's going to swing the bat like he did tonight, he's going to play," Washington said. Murphy is certainly swinging the hottest bat in the Rangers' lineup, going 4-for-4 with two home runs and four runs scored in a 10-4 victory over the Indians at the Ballpark in Arlington. Texas kept a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who beat the A's, 6-3, on Tuesday night.
The victory beneath the Harvest Moon gave the Rangers a two-game winning streak for the first time since Sept. 1-2. They haven't won more than two in a row since a six-game winning streak Aug. 12-17 during the last full moon. The Rangers have won seven of eight against the Indians this season.Murphy is now hitting .424 (28-for-66) with six home runs and 20 RBIs in his past 16 games. "He had a good night tonight," Washington said. "He got us on the board early and gave the rest of his teammates a chance to get into the flow." Murphy's work has come while Cruz was sidelined with a strained left hamstring. Cruz is still not ready to return to the lineup, and the Rangers will take it slow with him. Murphy allows them to do that. Relegated to fourth outfielder through much of the hot summer, Murphy is once again re-establishing himself as a force in the Rangers' lineup as the season ends and a potential postseason beckons. "It's just the answer to a lot of prayers," Murphy said. "God has been good and answered a lot of prayers. I'm a big believer that I don't do it alone. It has been a lot of fun." This is not the first time Murphy has had a chance to play regularly. The Rangers needed him for much of the first half when both Cruz and Josh Hamilton were hurt. But he got off to a slow start and hit just .247 with a .338 slugging percentage before the All-Star break. He is hitting .319 with a .533 slugging percentage since then. "Early in the season, I was trying so hard and wanted to play so well so badly, I got outside of myself as a player," Murphy said. "Right now, my approach is solid. I'm not trying to do too much. I'm trying to hit line drives up the middle, and if they make a mistake, I hit one in the gap or hit a home run." Murphy got hot in the second half of last season and it forced Washington to alter his outfield configuration going into the playoffs. Murphy was the hottest hitter down the stretch last September. Murphy has been in right field lately, but he could switch back to left with Hamilton moving to center when Cruz is ready to go. "I've always said David Murphy is a big part of this team," Washington said. Murphy's home runs came off Justin Masterson, the Indians sinkerballer who is tough to take deep. Murphy homered in both the second and the fourth innings, both coming with the bases empty. Hamilton, with the score tied at 2, hit a two-run home run off Masterson in the fifth to put the Rangers ahead for good. "I made some good pitches," Masterson said. "You have to give some credit to them. They had a couple good balls. David Murphy looked like he was hot tonight. There were some times when I got in poor counts, but overall, I felt good out there." Murphy is only the fifth hitter to have two home runs in his career against Masterson. He is also the first to hit two home runs off Masterson in a single season, much less the same game. This is the first time in 84 career starts that Masterson has given up three home runs in a game. "He did well tonight, but the bottom line is we made him work," Murphy said. "In the first inning, we made him throw 25 pitches. We didn't score, but that was a good start. He's got nasty stuff and is tough on right-handers, but we just grinded out our at-bats." Matt Harrison picked up the win and is now 12-9 with a 3.56 ERA on the season. Harrison retired the first eight hitters he faced, but then had to work out of jams in the third, fourth and fifth innings. He had a 4-2 lead when his night came to an end after a leadoff double by Carlos Santana in the sixth. "He battled to get us into the sixth, but I just felt I needed to make a change right there," Washington said. "Offense definitely won the game for us tonight," Harrison said. "I felt good out of the chute and was throwing fine. But I started getting behind hitters, throwing too many pitches, and I made a couple of mistakes. I wish I could have gone deeper in the game, especially after the way I started." Santana scored in the sixth on Mike Gonzalez's wild pitch. But the Rangers broke it open in the bottom of the sixth after Murphy reached on an infield single. Craig Gentry had a two-run single and Elvis Andrus had a two-run double. Andrus has now hit safely in 21 straight games against the Indians. "I really didn't feel that good tonight, but I got good wood when it counted," Andrus said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.