SEATTLE -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said he had a conversation with pitcher Matt Harrison a few months ago about leaving him out on the mound to finish the seventh, eighth and ninth innings if he wanted the ball.
With the help of his sinker and some nice defensive plays, that’s exactly what Harrison was able to do Sunday against the Seattle Mariners.
Harrison pitched a complete game, five-hit shutout in the Rangers' 4-0 win over the Mariners.
He had trouble with his command in the first two innings. Harrison gave up two walks and singles in that span, but his defense was able to bail him out each time.
With two on and two outs in the first, shortstop Elvis Andrus fielded Justin Smoak’s ground ball to end the inning. Put in the same situation in the second following a walk to Chone Figgins, who’s batting .185 this season, Harrison was bailed out by second baseman Ian Kinsler. Brendan Ryan hit a line drive right at Kinsler.
“I owe a lot of the game to them,” Harrison said. “Every ball put in play, they made the play.”
Harrison retired six straight batters in the third and fourth on ground balls and fly balls, but he found himself in trouble again in the fifth.
With Michael Saunders on with a leadoff single, third baseman Adrian Beltre made a great catch on a Figgins line drive and threw to first for the double play. It was one of many hard-hit ground balls Beltre fielded cleanly for Harrison.
“I was praying he had a cup on because the way he was catching some of them, I was worried there,” Harrison said.
Beltre’s gold glove came in handy in the seventh to help extend Harrison’s outing. He fielded his second double play in the seventh on a ground ball from Ryan. Kinsler turned the throw from second to Michael Young at first to end the threat with runners at first and second.
“He’s a guy that pounds the strike zone and throws a lot of sinkers and cutters,” Beltre said. “We know we’re going to have a busy day when he’s throwing, which is good. He’s the type of guy you want out there keeping you on your toes.”
Closer Joe Nathan was active in the bullpen, but he stopped throwing and soon sat down during Harrison’s 12-pitch eighth inning. Ichiro Suzuki grounded out on two pitches, which paved the way for Harrison’s second strikeout -- a six-pitch at-bat against Casper Wells. Jesus Montero flied out to deep center field but fell short in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks.
“You’re going to get away with a few more mistakes than you would at our place,” Harrison said. “The biggest thing here is getting ahead of guys and make them swing the bats. ... It definitely works to your advantage when you have a park like that when you can go out and throw strikes and make them put the ball in play.”
Harrison topped his eighth inning performance with a seven-pitch ninth. In an ironic ending to a game where he only collected three strikeouts, he ended the with a strikeout of Miguel Olivo.
“That’s something we have to learn as a staff is to put innings away,” Washington said. “He kept trusting what he was doing and he worked around some things and finished the ballgame.”
Harrison's won eight consecutive starts against the Mariners dating back to May 1, 2010, which is the third longest consecutive winning streak against an opponent in club history. His 12th win is tied for the most in baseball and he has a 2.87 ERA.
“It’s a good start for the second half for me and I hope to continue building on that,” Harrison said.