Is this Matt Harrison's biggest start of 2012?

ARLINGTON, Texas -- By the time the media arrived in the Texas Rangers clubhouse after a 9-3 loss that shrunk the AL West lead to three games, Matt Harrison was long gone. The starter headed home to be sure he got a full night of rest before his biggest start of 2012.

That's what happens when the finish line is in sight and your team is trying to clinch. Harrison has been this club's most consistent starter all season. He's stopped losing streaks. He's won key games in big series. He made the All-Star team and is a candidate to start Game 1 of the ALDS, though the Rangers haven't clinched anything yet.

After two straight losses to the A's that have kept the magic number stuck on five with the hard-charging Los Angeles Angels set to come to town this weekend, it's time for Harrison to give this team another solid performance.

"If we come back tomorrow and win a ballgame, they come up in here and leave out of here the same way they came in," manager Ron Washington said. "We feel like we're going to win tomorrow."

The skipper said that moments after his team struggled in a 9-3 loss Wednesday. Part of his confidence comes from his team's resiliency, which has been on display for three seasons. But a big part of that is Harrison, who is 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in his last three starts. He's trying to become the first 18-game winner for the Rangers since Kenny Rogers in 2004.

Harrison is pitching against a team that has struggled against him. Harrison is 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA in eight career starts against the A's, including a 3-0 mark and a 2.33 ERA in four starts in Arlington.

He's the guy the Rangers want in this situation. Washington has his big pieces in the bullpen if needed, like Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan.

"We need Harry to go out there and do what Harry does, which is keep us in the ballgame," Washington said. "If he keeps us in the ballgame, we'll be fine."