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Rangers worried for Murphy after walk-off win

Rangers worried for Murphy after walk-off win

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers celebrated another bizarre walk-off victory with Nelson Cruz in the middle of things yet again, but of deeper concern after Wednesday's 6-5 victory over Seattle was the status of outfielder David Murphy.

Murphy suffered a strained left groin running the bases during the second inning. He was sent to get an MRI immediately after the game and was unavailable for comment. With Texas' playoff opener less than a week away and Murphy a key figure in the Rangers' outfield, especially with Josh Hamilton still coming back from his rib cage injury, the last thing the club needs is to have Murphy miss any significant time.

"It was a freak thing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It's something that happened. We'll see how it is tomorrow."

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Washington said Murphy was injured running between first and second base during Bengie Molina's at-bat with one out in the inning. Molina fouled off five pitches during the at-bat, and Washington said Murphy injured his groin on the third foul off by Molina. Murphy remained in the game until after Matt Treanor's sacrifice fly that scored Jeff Francoeur for the second out of the inning.

Murphy probably wasn't around to see a wild finish that kept the Rangers from being swept by a Mariners team that lost its 97th game of the season.

Mitch Moreland scored from first base on a wild pitch by Mariners pitcher Dan Cortes and a two-base throwing error by catcher Guillermo Quiroz, who was trying to throw out Nelson Cruz at first base. Cruz had swung and missed at strike three with two outs, and after hesitating, he took off for first base as the ball caromed off the brick wall behind home plate to Quiroz.

Quiroz's throw was to the inside of the base and Mariners Justin Smoak was on the outside of the bag, and as Smoak pulled back, the ball rolled down the right-field line. Moreland never took his eyes off third-base coach Dave Anderson and slid around the tag of Quiroz to win the game.

"I never hesitated," Moreland said. "I tried to keep going."

Rangers victories have now ended five times with a Cruz plate appearance -- including three walk-off home runs. Whatever you call Wednesday's strikeout-wild pitch/two-base error walk-off, Cruz was in a joking mood after the game.

"I guess you see everything in baseball," Cruz said. "What it is, it's a win."

The most important thing to come out of Wednesday's victory, aside from the unfortunate injury to Murphy, was a solid eighth inning from reliever Mark Lowe, pitching in his first game with Texas.

Lowe, called up on Wednesday as a possible eighth-inning man in the playoffs to replace the injured Frank Francisco, pitched a scoreless inning against the team that traded him along with Cliff Lee to the Rangers earlier this season. Lowe allowed a hit and had two strikeouts.

"It's fun making your debut for the Rangers," Lowe said. "It was good to be out there. I worked hard to get back this year. It was worth it."

Lowe, who has come back from back surgery, said he felt no pain after his inning. He will pitch again Friday and Sunday as he auditions for the playoff roster. Washington seemed to indicate that Lowe could lock down a spot with a strong effort Friday.

Lowe struck out Chris Woodward on a changeup to start the inning and said after the game his changeup is better than his slider right now. Lowe then fought through the top of the Mariners' lineup. He got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out to second. After Chone Figgins singled on an 0-1 changeup, Lowe got ahead of Franklin Gutierrez with a 1-2 count and blew a 94-mph rising fastball by him to end the inning.

"It's something I've been working on ever since I started playing catch again after the surgery," Lowe said. "I've always had trouble elevating fastballs. I've been working on it every bullpen, throwing a couple of fastballs up. It's been working out nicely."

The Rangers did start a pitcher who won't be on their playoff roster next week, the embattled Rich Harden, who gave the 23,052 fans in attendance another glance at what most of his starts have looked like this season.

In what was likely his final start with Texas, Harden allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings. Baserunners were aplenty -- the Mariners had 11 against Harden. The right-hander signed to a one-year, $6.5 million contract with an option year in the offseason finished 2010 with a 5-6 record and a 5.56 ERA.

Harden gave up a two-run home run in the first inning to Smoak, who wound up going deep in all three games against his former team.

And Harden allowed three hits to the final three batters he faced. Suzuki started the inning with a single, moved to third on a double by Figgins, and both runners scored on Gutierrez's double to left field that gave Seattle a 5-1 lead.

Wednesday's game also featured an up-and-down relief appearance by left-hander Derek Holland, who is trying to fight his way into the Rangers' playoff bullpen. Holland, coming off a strong start in the Rangers' division-clinching win over Oakland on Saturday, had electric stuff at times, striking out five Mariners, including two of them with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the sixth.

Holland got a groundout to end the inning and only allowed one run after giving up four hits to start the inning. It was a nice job of pitching out of a jam, the kind you need when fighting to pitch in the postseason.

"To me, that's the goal," Holland said. "I want to make it tough on them."

Michael Young doubled home a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to cut Seattle's lead to 5-2 before the Rangers scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game at 5. Julio Borbon had the key hit, a one-out single to center field that scored Esteban German.

That set up another dramatic finish, the playoff-bound Rangers 11th walk-off win of the season.

"It's very nice because that's the way we play," Washington said. "The guys played nine innings."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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