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Friday, June 24, 2011
Matt Harrison changing his tough June luck

By Richard Durrett

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison won't be buying any lottery tickets this month. A trifecta of trouble visited him earlier in the month as he dealt with a blister on his left index finger, a kidney stone that took 10 days to pass and a bruise on his left triceps muscle caused by a line drive.

Matt Harrison
Matt Harrison's toughness against the Mets earned him his first win since May 28.
But Harrison has simply toughened up through the experience. In his last start, a tough-luck (get the theme, here?) no-decision in Atlanta, Harrison stayed loose through a 2-hour, 16-minute rain delay and was able to convince pitching coach Mike Maddux that he could take the ball and pitch another few innings. He did, keeping his team in the game. They gave away the lead, but the Rangers won it in extra frames.

On Friday, Harrison didn't have his best stuff. But he kept battling, getting out of jams and trusting his defense. The result was his first win since May 28 after going seven innings and allowing just one run on seven hits. It was his 10th quality start of the season, matching C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando for most on the team.

"My job is to go out there and pitch deep enough to give us a chance to win," Harrison said. "Lately, I've been able to do that. I give a lot of credit to my defense and the hitters giving me an opportunity."

Harrison likes pitching against the National League. He's 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA against Philadelphia, Atlanta and now the New York Mets.

"I got Houston when we go there, so hopefully I can keep it going," Harrison said. "It's kind of weird that I'm pitching better against the National League teams right now."

It isn't just the NL teams. Harrison is also 3-2 with a 1.43 ERA in his last six starts to drop his ERA from 4.70 to 3.00, the lowest of any Rangers rotation member.

On Friday, he made some timely pitches. Perhaps the biggest was a curve ball to Jose Reyes with one out in the fifth. The Rangers were leading 4-1 at the time, but the Mets appeared ready to put together a big inning. Pitching coach Mike Maddux came out to the mound to discuss strategy with Harrison and one pitch later, he induced a ground ball to third, allowing Adrian Beltre to step on the bag and throw to first to end the threat.

"I wanted to go soft," Harrison said. "We talked about how they were going to be swinging with guys in scoring position and I was able to get the pitch down in the zone."

Harrison was able to execute at the critical moments and might have gone back out for the eighth if not for Michael Young's homer to make it a five-run game. At that point, there's no reason to put any more strain on Harrison and manager Ron Washington went to the bullpen. Darren Oliver and Mark Lowe got through the final two innings without allowing a run to secure the victory.