Murray showed that all that work paid off in his first appearance of the season in the majors.
Murray gave Texas its third straight solid starting pitching performance, allowing two earned runs in 5 1-3 innings a day after being called up from the minors to help the Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Saturday night for their fourth straight win.
“I’m glad I could go out there and help the team get another win and keep this winning streak going,” Murray said.
David Murphy hit a three-run homer and Chris Shelton added a solo shot for the Rangers, who have won six of eight following a seven-game losing streak that raised questions about the job stability of manager Ron Washington.
Team president Nolan Ryan said last week he wanted to see how the players responded to the adversity of a bad start before making a decision about Washington’s future. The early results are positive.
“I’m not counting,” Washington said of the season-long winning streak. “I just want us to keep playing good baseball. If we keep playing good baseball we’ll be in games. That’s all I want. We’re OK.”
With three members of their starting rotation on the disabled list, the Rangers brought up Murray from Triple-A Oklahoma on Friday to face the A’s in what could be a one-shot deal if Kason Gabbard comes off the DL as expected to start Thursday in Seattle.
Staked to a 3-0 lead before stepping on the mound behind Murphy’s first-inning homer against Chad Gaudin (3-2), Murray pitched confidently with his newly discovered two-seam fastball and challenged the A’s hitters. He held Oakland scoreless until Mike Sweeney’s two-run double in the fifth cut Texas’ lead to 5-2.
“He was locating perfectly on the outside part of the plate,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “He wasn’t overpowering as far as his velocity. It was obviously his command.”
Murray allowed three runs—two earned—and six hits, while walking two batters to get the win. His only other major league win also came against the A’s, in a relief outing last September.
The Rangers have allowed just four earned runs the past three games, lowering their team ERA from 5.60 to 5.18.
Murray started the season in the minors after struggling in spring training, but injuries and a 2-0 record at Oklahoma earned him the early season callup. He returned with confidence in the sinking, two-seam fastball that he used effectively against the A’s.
“Tonight I was really pounding the zone and getting groundballs with it,” he said. “It was working really well. This game tonight was the most I ever threw a two-seamer in a game. It was working for me tonight. I was able to keep it down.”
Frank Francisco got five outs, Jamey Wright pitched a scoreless eighth and Joaqiun Benoit went the ninth for his first save. Regular closer C.J. Wilson got the day off after pitching three days in a row.
Gaudin, who had allowed just two earned runs in winning his past three starts, gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings. He got into a hole in the first inning after Milton Bradley fought back from an 0-2 count to work a two-out walk. Murphy followed with his third home run of the season.
“Milton had given me a tough at-bat before that and I wanted to make sure to come at Murphy,” Gaudin said. “I made a bad pitch and he hit it. It was just a rough night.”
The A’s have lost four of five games.
Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler was a late scratch with sore legs but will be back in the lineup Sunday. … Oakland RHP Andrew Brown had not allowed an earned run in 16 innings before giving up Shelton’s two-out homer in the ninth. … Hamilton was selected the AL player of the month for April on Saturday. … A’s RHP Rich Harden (right shoulder) is scheduled to make his second rehab start Tuesday for Class-A Stockton and could return to the majors after that.