David Murphy ready to keep starting spot

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Nelson Cruz is activated and nearly ready to return to the lineup. But he won't be taking David Murphy's place.

"How am I going to put him out of the lineup?" manager Ron Washington asked after Murphy put on yet another hitting clinic in a 10-4 victory over the Indians that shoved the Rangers to 20 games over .500.

Washington said Murphy will continue to play with the way he's hitting, meaning when Cruz returns to right field (and there's no great rush to do that with Murphy hitting well and Craig Gentry and Endy Chavez getting the job done in center field), Murphy will shift to left with Josh Hamilton in center. That's the club's most productive outfield alignment, especially with Murphy putting together his usual late-season surge.

Murphy had his bat working Tuesday. He was 4-for-4 with two home runs, both off Justin Masterson. That's not an easy thing to do. No one has ever hit two home runs off Masterson in a game and no one had even hit two home runs in the same season off the Cleveland starter. But no one is cooling off Murphy these days. He's hitting .426 in September with four homers and 12 RBIs. He batted .355 with 17 RBIs while Hamilton was out in September 2010.

On Tuesday, Murphy tweaked his approach slightly and surprised Masterson. He led off the second inning and swung at the first pitch he saw, sending it 384 feet into the right field seats.

"I don’t usually swing the first pitch of the game," Murphy said. "I like to see a pitch or two just to get comfortable up there, and he’s got good enough stuff where you don’t necessarily want to get deep in the count. Every now and then I pick my spots and I figured that was a good spot to pick and they probably had it on their scouting report that I don’t swing first pitch of the game, and that one was right down the middle."

The second time, Murphy got a 1-1 fastball inside and was late on it. He thought Masterson might try it again and made an adjustment, hitting that homer 394 feet to right field.

Murphy swears he's not trying to hit home runs. And that frame of mind is actually helping him hit deep balls and be more consistent at the plate.

"I’m trying to hit line drives up the middle," Murphy said. "If they go in a gap or go for a home run, that’s great. I think early in the season I was swinging for the fences. You come out of spring training and your body feels great and it’s hard to control my effort level. That’s why I struggled."

Murphy admitted that he wasn't sure it would come together for him at all this year after he was unable to find any rhythm for much of the season. But it's clicked and he's continued to work to keep it that way.

"He didn't hang his head with things were going well," Washington said. "He's a professional. He's a big part of this team."

And he'll continue to be even when Cruz returns.