ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — David Murphy is finding his September swing for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. And it could keep him in the lineup even with slugger Nelson Cruz coming off the disabled list.
Murphy had a pair of solo home runs among his four hits before Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre went deep to power the Rangers to a 10-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.
"Early in the season, I try so hard and want to play so well so badly I just get outside myself as a player," Murphy said. "Right now my approach is solid because I'm not trying to do too much. I'm trying to hit line drives up the middle and if they make a mistake and leave a ball up, it might go in the gap or occasionally hit a home run. ... Bottom line, I didn't feel like it was going to happen this year. Things always work themselves out."
Back in the lineup on a regular basis after Cruz got hurt, Murphy has hit .424 with six homers and 20 RBIs over his last 16 games going back into last week of August — after only three RBIs his previous 22 games. Murphy scored four times against the Indians and has raised his overall average to .274, his highest since May 2.
With two weeks left in the regular season, the Rangers activated Cruz from the disabled list earlier Tuesday, but want to ease him back on the field after his second DL stint because of leg problems. He had been out since Aug. 29 with a left hamstring strain.
Murphy's play will certainly help manager Ron Washington stick to that plan.
Then when Cruz is back, the manager plans to keep a spot in the lineup for Murphy, who last September hit .355 when the Rangers clinched the AL West title on way to their first World Series.
The Rangers stayed three games ahead of Los Angeles, which won later Tuesday night in Oakland.
"When Nelson comes back, it's not going to affect the way David is playing. ... He's going to continue to play if he continues to swing the bat the way he's swinging. How am I going to pull him out of the lineup," Washington said. "It's aggressive, he continued to work, didn't drop his head because things weren't going well."
Switch-hitting catcher Carlos Santana homered twice for Cleveland, becoming the first Indians batter since Victor Martinez on June 1, 2007, to go deep from both sides of the plate. He added a double between his homers, completing that at-bat after fouling a pitch hard off his left shin and needing a couple of minutes to gather himself.
Murphy already had both of his homers, his 10th and 11th of the season, before Elvis Andrus drew a one-out walk in the fifth off Justin Masterson (11-10) and Hamilton followed with his 20th homer, a scorching liner into the right-center field seats by the Texas bullpen for a 4-2 lead.
"He gave the rest of his teammates a chance to get in the flow," Washington said of Murphy. "And when they got in the flow, we pulled away."
The Rangers got four times in the sixth off Masterson and two relievers. Craig Gentry had a pinch-hit, two-run single and Andrus a two-run double.
Adrian Beltre extended his hitting streak to 17 games, matching a career high, when he led off the seventh with a 411-foot blast.
Beltre's 24th homer of the season came as the first major league batter faced by right-hander Zach Putnam, who then gave up a double to Murphy and a run-scoring single to Mike Napoli before finally recording an out.
"This is one of the best lineups in the league, right up there with the one in New York and the one in Boston. Nellie Cruz wasn't even in the lineup," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "They're so deep one through nine. Some other lineups, four guys in the middle are good. With these guys, one through nine, and they have a couple guys they can platoon."
Matt Harrison (12-9) gave up three runs on seven hits while pitching into the sixth inning in his first start for Texas in nine days. The left-hander struck out four and walked one.
Murphy pulled homers to right field in each of his first two at-bats. He led off the second, then two innings later hit a ball that ricocheted off the first row in the second deck of seats. It was his third career multihomer game, his first at Rangers Ballpark.
The last batter Masterson faced was Murphy, who led off the sixth with a slow roller up the first-base line. Masterson fielded the ball and weakly flipped it toward the bag as Murphy reached on an infield single to start the sixth-inning outburst.
Masterson gave up six runs and eight hits with two strikeouts and three walks.
Notes: Texas is 7-1 against Cleveland this season. ... Ian Kinsler extended his Rangers record with his 24th consecutive stolen base without getting caught. He was promptly picked off at second base, though that doesn't affect his still-active streak. ... Rangers DH Michael Young had an extra hit even before the game began. The Rangers said an MLB committee overturned an error by Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy in the first inning Friday night. The scoring change gave Young three hits for that game matching Hamilton's team record of 24 three-hit games in a season. ... Rangers LHP Derek Holland, 7-1 over his last 12 starts since July 7, is scheduled to make his 30th start Wednesday for Texas. Indians rookie LHP David Huff (2-4) makes his ninth start since July 18.