Murphy capitalizing on pinch-hitting opportunities for Indians

Indians' outfielder David Murphy is 7 for 21 with three home runs as a pinch hitter this season.

Tony Dejak

CLEVELAND — David Murphy has talked all season about making the most of his opportunities. The place where that has been most apparent is as a pinch-hitter.

Murphy hit his third pinch-hit home run of the season in Monday’s 8-5 loss to Detroit. The three homers ties a franchise record that has been accomplished five other times, with the most recent being Jason Giambi in 2013. Murphy is also tied with the Dodgers’ Alex Guerrero for the lead in the majors.

The eighth-inning homer came in what has been a familiar scenario for Murphy this season — he pinch-hit for Ryan Raburn after the Tigers went to a right-hander (Joba Chamberlain).

"I think it’s easy to put too much pressure on yourself as a pinch-hitter and go up there tight. I mean, it’s easier for me because I’ve got the routine down a little bit. I’ve done it plenty of times this year," Murphy said. "You have to go up with the attitude, first of all, pinch-hitting is not an easy thing to do. You’re going to judge your night, basically, from one at bat. So, you go up there and try to have a quality at-bat. You can’t be hard on yourself, and you can’t tense up. You have to treat it like any other at-bat and just go compete."

That philosophy is one reason Murphy has been one of the top pinch-hitters in the majors this season. He is 7 for 21 with a double, three homers and five RBI. He leads the American League in pinch hits and homers. According to STATS LLC, he is tied with the Phillies’ Andres Blanco in batting average (.333) among players with 21 or more at-bats as a pinch-hitter.

Last season, Murphy was the primary starter in right, but when the Indians acquired Brandon Moss during the offseason, Murphy knew that he would be playing a variety of roles this year. He has played the corner spots in the outfield, been the designated hitter and also pinch hit.

The Murphy-Raburn tandem has turned out to be extremely productive. Murphy is batting .321 overall on the season while Raburn has bounced back from a frustrating 2014 and is batting .280.

"Well, he stays ready so well. When you’re on the bench, and you want to get his attention to hit, he’s already with you," said manager Terry Francona of Murphy. "Sometimes, you get a younger guy that you gotta go get loose. Murphy’s always in the game. He’s always loose. He’s ready. He knows the pitchers; he’s been throughout the league, and he doesn’t pout. I know he wants to play more. I respect that, but he’s always ready."

Of Murphy’s three pinch-hit homers this year, two have been against the Tigers. Said Murphy of the at-bat: "I’m the type of guy, sometimes I like to swing early, but usually I get more comfortable when I see some pitches. I took a pretty good pitch to hit on the first pitch and then I didn’t see another fastball the whole at bat. I was fortunate when I got to 3-2, he decided to throw a breaking ball, but he hung it, and he left it in the middle of the plate."

Besides Murphy and Giambi, Ron Kittle (1987), Ted Uhlaender (1970), Fred Whitfield (1966) and Gene Green (1962), also had three pinch-hit homers in a season for the Tribe. The team record for most pinch hits in a season is 19 by Bob Hale in 1960.