Nobody said that during the "Dog Days of Summer" it's fun to be outside in Texas triple digit heat. However the Rangers are surviving and holding onto their 8.5 game lead on the Angels, thanks in part to the offensive and defensive boost of a native Texan.
David Murphy, the fifth outfielder on Opening Day, has been finding himself a regular in the lineup over the past couple weeks because of his sudden surge on the field.
Murphy, a native of the Houston area and a Baylor Bear alum, is in his fourth season as a Ranger. Traded in 2007 from the Boston Red Sox, along with Kason Gabbard for Eric Gagne, he has been the Rangers 4th or 5th outfielder each season since then. At times during tenure in Texas, Murphy has had stretches of being a regular starter, due to injured players or, as in this case, he catches fire.
During this season Murphy has seen action in 98 games so far, but his latest surge has come at a very optimistic time with some starters in slumps (Vladimir Guerrero, Bengie Molina, Julio Borbon, and even Michael Young) and others on the disabled list (Ian Kinsler).
Since July 29th he is currently on an 8-game hitting streak, batting .378 (17-45), slugging .711, 17 hits, 4 home runs, 6 walks, 2 stolen bases, 7 runs, and 15 RBI. In this time he has raised his batting average from .255 to .276 and his slugging from .374 to .430.
Murphy is a career .278 hitter and slugging .457, which means it is possible his recent offensive surge could level out. But the Rangers are not looking for Murphy to be the offensive hero to lead this team, with Josh Hamilton batting a few miles above the stratosphere, .362 AVG. (1st in AL, 24 points ahead of 2nd), 158 hits (1st), .633 SLUG (1st), 37 doubles (t-3rd), 79 runs (t-4th), and 25 HRs (6th). Texas is simply looking for Murphy to continue to contribute his usual numbers as Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus, and even Mitch Moreland continue to heat up and while Vlad, Borbon, and Young work out of their slumps.
There is no doubt that this offensive surge from Murphy has been vital in the Rangers sustaining the largest divisional lead in baseball over both the Angels and Athletics. It has also been key for the Rangers doing this while playing seven of their past eight series against potential playoff teams.
If the Rangers are not only going to hold off their competition and win the AL West, but also make a run, hopefully deep, into the playoffs, they are not only going to need the Hamilton's, Cruz's, and Young's to produce, but also reserve-type players like Murphy.
On another note from this piece, many have been asking about the hand gestures that the Ranger players have been using during the games. Some of us have become accustomed to seeing the "Claw and Antlers" while the team is hitting. If you have or have not, here is a quick rundown of what they mean and when they are used.
CLAW - This is a variation of the long distant high-five, it was brought to this team by Cruz, Vlad, and Andres Blanco. A player is given the "CLAW" when he gets a hard hit single or double. The motion is done by spredding and slightly curling your fingers to make a claw, swinging your arm way out and up to above your head. Another player does the same motion and when they meet above each others heads, then swing the arm back down.
ANTLERS - This hand gesture is used to resemble the speed of a buck deer. It was originally started a couple years ago by Young, Kinsler, and Hamilton, but made popular again this season. A player is given the "ANTLERS" when he either reaches on an infield single, hustles a single into a double, legs out a triple, or steals a base. Simply use both hands to make the gestures of a buck's antlers.
Hopefully both of these hand gestures will not only become a daily part of the Ranger clubhouse, but also a Texas Ranger phenomenom, as some fans in the stands are already joining in with the players. We just need to get the etiquette down first.