OAKLAND -- The Rangers trailed 3-1 in the top of the sixth against the Athletics on Wednesday but had a runner on third with two outs and David Murphy at the plate.

Murphy, facing Athletics reliever Trevor Ross, ripped a wicked grounder down the first-base line. But Athletics first baseman Daric Barton made a tremendous backhanded stop and beat Murphy to the bag for the third out of the inning.

That's been the way things have been going for Murphy lately. He was 0-for-4 on Wednesday afternoon and is now 2-for-21 in his last eight games. He is hitting .151 on the season.

This was not what he or the Rangers were hoping for right now. Murphy, who began the season as the Rangers' fourth outfielder, is getting a chance to play semi-regularly, while Nelson Cruz is on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. But the results aren't quite there.

"I just need to have good at-bats," Murphy said. "I felt I had at least two good at-bats today and have nothing to show for it. My numbers are obviously bad, but I feel I've had a lot of good at-bats and have nothing to show for it."

Well, that's not completely true, Murphy is hitting .250 with runners in scoring position. He does have eight RBIs in his last 12 games. He did drive in the tying and winning runs home in Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Mariners. But he's still not satisfied.

"I just need to slow it down. I do that with runners in scoring position," Murphy said. "I don't try to do too much. I just think about hitting something and squaring something up. But when the bases are empty, I try to do too much. I want to be on second and third rather than just trying to get on base and get something going."

One thing that's bothering Murphy is his strikeouts. He has 18 on the season or one for every 3.44 plate appearances. He had one strikeout for every 4.66 plate appearances in 2009 and one for every 6.49 plate appearances in 2008.

"I have too many strikeouts," Murphy said. "I'm usually not a big strikeout guy but I definitely need to do a better job of putting the ball in play. I need to keep working, that's all I can do. This game is tough at times but I have to keep fighting through this."

This could be a big weekend for him. Thursday through Sunday, the Rangers are facing the Royals, who will start four right-handed pitchers in the series. Murphy has been sitting against left-handers but should be in the lineup for all four games.

Following the Rangers' off-day on Monday, the Athletics will start right-hander Trevor Cahill on Tuesday. That's five right-handers in a row for Murphy. On Wednesday, though, the Rangers could activate Cruz off the disabled list and that would push Murphy back to being the fourth outfielder.

This is his time to shine.

"We go according to the middle of the lineup," manager Ron Washington said. "If they go, we go. We've got to get Murphy going with some consistency.

Murphy understands that.

"I don't think I'm putting too much pressure on myself," Murphy said. "I'm doing the same things I've always done, just not successfully."