David Murphy, as honest as a baseball game is long, revealed late Saturday night that he hasn’t felt his best at the plate during a recent hot stretch that is turning around his season.
The exception, though, had arrived earlier in the evening. All Murphy needed, and that goes double for the Texas Rangers, was to face one of the game’s best pitchers.
Murphy had two hits and drove in three runs, and the Rangers collected 11 hits and all their runs against former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez en route to a 5-2 victory over Seattle.
Only Chuck Finley has lost as many times to the Rangers as Hernandez, whose record against them fell to 12-18 with a 3.87 ERA. Murphy, meanwhile, upped his average to .304 against Hernandez and has more RBIs (13) than any other batter to face the King.
“We’re more familiar with him because he’s in our division and we face him more than most,” Murphy said. “But he’s still a good pitcher. It’s not like we’re just going to show up and win.
“I feel like most of my better games against him were earlier in my career. It’s always a battle against him.”
The Rangers started the second with singles by Mitch Moreland, A.J. Pierzynski and Jurickson Profar to take a 1-0 lead, but two were out when Murphy came to the plate with runners at first and second.
He ripped a double into the right-field corner to score Profar and Elvis Andrus, who had reached on a fielder’s choice that saw Pierzynski thrown out at home.
Murphy’s turn came up in the sixth inning as the first batter after Hernandez was removed. The Mariners summoned left-hander Oliver Perez to face the left-handed-hitting Murphy, but manager Ron Washington opted not to pinch-hit Jeff Baker.
The decision paid off as Murphy drilled a single to right field to drive home the game’s final run.
Murphy wasn’t sure if Baker, a right-handed hitter batting .382 against lefties, would replace him. Washington noticed that Murphy had hit the ball hard in his previous two at-bats and also preferred to have Murphy’s defense in left field over Baker.
“I wasn’t sure,” Murphy said. “I knew the lefty was warming up in the bullpen. Sometimes I get to hit, and sometimes I don’t. I might as well be ready if my spot’s coming up.”
Said Washington: “He’s going to see some lefties, but I’m going to pick them. Tonight we had a lead, he was the reason we were ahead in the game, and he was feeling good about himself. I’m not going to mess with his mojo.”
Derek Holland (4-2) allowed two unearned runs and struck out a season-high 10 in 6 2/3 innings, rebounding from his shortest outing of the season a week ago against Miguel Cabrera and Detroit.
The Mariners collected two singles in the first but couldn’t score, and were quickly sat down in order in the second after the Rangers’ big inning against Hernandez.
But Holland issued a one-out walk to Jason Bay in the third, and Andrus extended the inning two batters later when he booted a bouncer by Michael Morse that should have been the final out.
Holland looked as though he would bail out Andrus, throwing two quick strikes to Kendrys Morales, but the Mariners’ cleanup hitter smacked a double off the right-field wall to clear the bases.
The runs were the first allowed by Holland at Safeco Field as a starting pitcher, but Seattle collected only a pair of walks the rest of the way against Holland. He struck out the side in a perfect fourth inning and collected two more strikeouts in the fifth.
He worked around a two-out walk in the sixth and finished the inning at 102 pitches. He lost Bay with two outs in the seventh, and bowed out after a career-high-tying 119 pitches in favor of Robbie Ross.
“I didn’t want to change my approach,” Holland said. “No matter who is at the plate, I never give in. Today I thought I did a good job of keeping the momentum on our side.”
Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan cleaned up the final 2 1/3 innings and sealed the Rangers’ third straight win overall and their fifth in a row over the Mariners.
Seattle has lost eight in a row. Hernandez has lost six of his past eight starts against the Rangers, and Saturday he might have gotten Murphy back on track.
“Tonight was one of my better nights of the year,” he said. “I had a few hits. I had a good out or two. You’re not going to go 4 for 4 or 5 for 5 every night, but the key is to have as many quality at-bats as you possibly can. Tonight things were definitely clicking a little bit, and they’ve been clicking the past week or two. Hopefully, the trend continues.”