Sunday, July 17, 2011
Matt Harrison finding consistency
By Richard Durrett
SEATTLE -- He's dealt with a blister, an annoying kidney stone that took 10 days to pass and a triceps bruise. But Matt Harrison's biggest challenge was staying away from the big inning and becoming a consistent starter in the Rangers rotation.
He's doing it. Harrison is 5-3 with a 1.94 ERA in his last 10 starts. He has quality starts in all but two of them and is averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings in that span. Harrison's latest success story was Sunday in Seattle, when he held the Mariners to five hits and one run in 7 2/3 innings, earning the victory. It was the Rangers' 11th straight win and puts them four games up in the AL West.
"I think I'm stronger mentally," said Harrison, who was reading pitching psychology books in spring training. "I'm not letting the big inning happen and I'm executing. I take time in between batters to focus."
Harrison's sinker was working for him Sunday. He said he was able to throw it in any count and know he could get a strike or a ground ball. And he got plenty of those. He had 14 outs that were ground balls or strikeouts, with his biggest coming to his final batter.
After the Mariners had scored their first run of the game in the eighth inning on a Jack Wilson single, Harrison faced Ichiro Suzuki as the tying run.
"If I put him on, there's no telling what happens there," Harrison said.
The 25-year-old lefty got ahead in the count 0-2 on fastballs and then threw a nasty changeup that had plenty of break.
"It was a pitch he hadn't seen before in the previous at-bats," Harrison said. "I was able to speed him up with fastballs before that."
The strikeout allowed Mark Lowe to enter the game with one on and two outs against right-handed hitting Franklin Gutierrez, who grounded out to end the inning. Neftali Feliz came on and did what he always does against the Mariners: no-hit them. Seattle is 0-for-33 with 13 Ks and two walks against Feliz for his career.
"He kept us in the ballgame, got us deep in the ballgame," manager Ron Washington said of Harrison. "He's stayed away from the big inning, pounded the strike zone, not staying in one part of the plate and working fast. All of that comes into play."
Harrison was pleased with his rhythm and has made an effort to be quick, but not too quick. He's found a happy medium between the guy with the super-fast windup last year and the one who works fast, but more calmly on the mound. The result is a starter gaining confidence with each start.