Monday, May 28, 2012
Matt Harrison with a strong performance
By Calvin Watkins
ARLINGTON, Texas -- At the end of a hot night at the ballpark, Texas Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison was smiling.
Harrison pitched one of his best games of the young season, eight strong innings where he allowed just two runs on seven hits. He struck out five and threw 98 pitches.
Harrison moved to 6-3 on the season as he led the Rangers to a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.
Harrison has beaten the Mariners twice in the last seven days and picked up eight consecutive wins against the team from the Pacific Northwest.
He's now 8-1 with a 2.69 ERA against the Mariners lifetime.
And Harrison did it by mixing up his pitches, mainly his curveball and changeup, and by spotting his fastball in the strike zone.
"I've been a little sluggish in the first couple of innings and I was just trying to hit (Mike) Napoli's glove and make them put the ball in play," Harrison said. "We were on the same page pretty much the whole game. I shook him off twice. We just kept going and make them put the ball in play and the defense was outstanding behind me and we ended up scoring some runs late."
Harrison noted he needed to pitch better in the first inning. He's allowed nine unearned runs in the opening frame this season and his objective was to get his pitches down in the zone. Harrison tends to overthrow early in the game and that gets him in trouble. He can still attack the strike zone, but must mix up his pitches more and not overthrow.
If he does that, he believes he'll have success.
Monday night, he retired leadoff hitter John Jaso on a bouncer to first, but Chone Figgins doubled down the left-field line. After Ichiro Suzuki reached on a fielders choice, Jesus Montero drove him home with a hard hit single to right for a 1-0 lead.
But Harrison didn't let the first inning bother him. He was able to get out of the inning by retiring Justin Smoak on a groundout to second. Harrison would go on to retire eight consecutive hitters until a Montero single in the fourth.
"There were a lot less pitches than the last game," Harrison said of his pitch counts in the first inning the last two games. "I was just staying with that approach the whole game and it worked out. Unfortunately I gave up that run in the first but I was able to battle back and keep it right there."