Friday, October 28, 2011
Matt Harrison prepares for last stand
By Jeff Caplan
ST. LOUIS -- Just like every player in the Texas Rangers dugout, Matt Harrison was ready to party. Yet, through the wild ups and downs of the final few innings of Game 6, no other player carried the emotional burden of being the potential Game 7 starting pitcher.
The young, left-hander rode every rise and dip of the rollercoaster, at one moment figuring he was a world champ and could ice his inning-logged arm for the winter, to suddenly having to ramp up to start the biggest game in franchise history tonight at 7:05 p.m. at will be a raucous Busch Stadium.
"It is a little weird. We thought in the ninth inning that we had it wrapped up there," Harrison said after the St. Louis Cardinals pulled out the improbable 10-9 victory in 11 innings to tie the series with one to go. "But, they’ve been fighting and srapping all series and so have we. Emotionally it was kind of a rollercoaster sitting there watching it and thinking it was going to be over and then it not be.
"And now, I’m pitching. That’s the way it goes. I’ve kind of flipped the switch where that’s over with and got to get ready. That’s just the way it goes and we’ve got one more to win."
Harrison didn't get out of the fourth inning in a strange Game 3 that included the blown call at first and the two-run error by Mike Napoli in his lone World Series start at first base. But, Harrison also couldn't put an end to the bleeding. When he exited with two outs in the fourth inning, five runs had crossed the plate, three earned, on six hits and a walk.
In three postseason starts, Harrison hasn't pitched more than five innings. How long he can go in Game 7 could be a significant key to the Rangers' success because a bullpen that virtually carried an underwhelming starting staff to this point is now under the gun.
Derek Holland, expected prior to Game 6 to be able to go several innings in Game 7 if needed, might now be good for one after throwing two innings in the gut-punch loss.
Harrison will be facing a Cardinals lineup that is feeling good about itself again. Albert Pujols put a good swing on a ball in the ninth inning off Neftali Feliz for the first time since his historic Game 3 performance. David Freese crushed his last two at-bats, Allen Craig is back to doing damage and Lance Berkman is the leading MVP candidate if St. Louis pulls off the comeback.
"I'm going to try to keep as calm as I can," Harrison said. 'I know what’s at stake, but I still got to go in and pitch my game and stick to my game plan and go out and execute pitches. You've got to take the same approach that Holland did [in Game 4]. You have to pitch them inside, make them uncomfortable, make your pitches when you need to and throw the offspeed for strikes."
If Harrison can do all that, he will surely go down in World Series lore.