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Murphy lifts Rangers to walk-off in 10th

Murphy lifts Rangers to walk-off win

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ARLINGTON -- The night started out belonging to Ivan Rodriguez. Then Omar Vizquel stepped to center stage with a little history of his own.

But when it was over, David Murphy proved to be the Man of the Hour and the guy who was getting mobbed by his teammates somewhere out near first base.

It was Murphy's bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning that gave the Rangers a 5-4 victory over the Astros at the Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday night.

Rodriguez, getting a standing ovation from 32,425 fans, set a new career Major League record for most games caught, and Vizquel's fifth-inning single tied him with Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio for most career hits by a native of Venezuela. But the night of history ultimately belonged to the Rangers, who won their fifth straight this season over the Astros while maintaining a two-game lead over the Angels in the American League West.

"It was awesome ... totally awesome," said C.J. Wilson, who pitched two scoreless innings in relief to get the victory.

"It just felt great," Murphy said. "I really do believe that the walk-off is the best moment in baseball. The team gets to celebrate on the field, it brings everybody together and gives you a little momentum going into tomorrow."

The Rangers won this one with some good fortune. As manager Ron Washington said afterward, "Tonight, the baseball gods shined on us."

"That was a hard-fought game," third baseman Michael Young said. "We caught some breaks in the last inning."

The biggest break came leading off the 10th inning, when Ian Kinsler led off against reliever Jeff Fulchino with a grounder right at third baseman Jeff Keppinger, who couldn't handle a tricky hop for an error. Kinsler then stole second base, his second steal of the night.

Young's single through the left side moved him to third, and Hank Blalock was walked intentionally to load the bases. Fulchino got Nelson Cruz to fly out to shallow left, holding Kinsler to third, but Murphy was able to slap a 1-1 fastball on the outside corner down the left-field line for the game-winning hit.

"The pitch might have been off the plate," Murphy said. "They threw me away all night, they've been throwing me away all season, so you might as well look out there. Obviously I didn't swing very hard."

The 10th-inning singles by Young and Murphy were the Rangers' only hits with runners in scoring position on the night. They were 2-for-9 in the game and were unable to score after getting a runner to second with nobody out in both the sixth and the ninth innings. But the Astros were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

"Just no offensive execution when we needed it," Astros manager Cecil Cooper fumed. "That's really unacceptable. We've been playing pretty good baseball, but that's unacceptable. We kicked the ball around and threw it around, and that's unacceptable. I don't care how well we've been playing. That game is not a game we should be playing like that. We're a much better team than that."

The Rangers did utilize a little speed. They stole three bases on the night and all resulted in runs scored. Kinsler reached with a leadoff double in the first, when left fielder Jason Michaels lost his fly ball in the sun, then stole third base and scored when Rodriguez's throw sailed into left field.

Then, with the score tied at 3, Vizquel singled with one out in the fifth and stole second base. Again Rodriguez's throw was errant, getting away from second baseman Kaz Matsui and allowing Vizquel to speed to third base. He scored on Kinsler's sacrifice fly.

Home runs by Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the third and Cruz in the fourth gave the Rangers their other runs. But Saltalamacchia was even bigger on defense in the ninth inning with two huge throws after a leadoff single by Michaels against Wilson.

Michael Bourn tried to bunt the go-ahead run to second but Saltalamacchia jumped out from behind the plate and gunned down Michaels for the force. He then threw out Bourn, who leads the National League in stolen bases, trying to steal with a terrific throw.

"We kept battling and finding ways," Washington said. "When it was all over, these guys found a way to pull it off."

Wilson was the fifth Rangers pitcher of the night. Matt Harrison, in his first start since coming off the disabled list with a strained left shoulder, went five innings and allowed three runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts.

"My arm felt really good," Harrison said. "It was frustrating falling behind a lot of hitters, but I made pitches when I had to. Overall I felt pretty good, but I wish I could have gone out there at least another inning.

He left with a 4-3 lead but -- after scoreless innings by Jason Grilli and Darren O'Day -- the Astros tied it up in the eighth on a home run by Hunter Pence off Eddie Guardado. That set up the final big breaks and heroics in the end.

"That was a good one," Kinsler said. "We needed that one. We need any we can get, but to get one in the 10th, it was a good win."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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