Friday, August 24, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 8, Twins 0
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Lefty Matt Harrison increased his team-high win total to a career-best 15, as he delivered a second consecutive ace-like performance Friday with an 8-0 blanking of the Minnesota Twins.
Harrison took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before designated hitter Trevor Plouffe broke it up with a solid, two-out single to left. Harrison (15-7), who allowed just two hits in eight innings in his last start at Toronto, exited Friday's gem after the eighth, allowing two hits and lowering his ERA to 3.04. He walked two and struck out five.
He got plenty of early run support with a five-spot in the second inning as the Rangers thrashed Twins starter Samuel Deduno (4-2). Adrian Beltre belted a triple, double and home run, his fifth in the past three games, in his first three at-bats. His fourth at-bat? A rope for a single into right field for his second career cycle.
What it means: The Rangers have scored 30 runs in their past three games and Harrison has given up just four hits in his past 16 innings. The third-place Angels remain 8½ games behind Texas after a 2-1 win at Detroit and the second-place A's also keep pace with a come-from-behind 5-4 win at Tampa Bay.
Harrison history: The last time a Rangers pitcher put together consecutive starts of at least eight innings without allowing more than two hits in either game was Jim Bibby on July 26 and 30, 1973. This season, two National League pitchers have done it, San Francisco's Matt Cain and the New York Mets' R.A. Dickey. Justin Verlander is the last AL pitcher to do it, which he accomplished last season on his way to winning the Cy Young Award.
Bombing Beltre: His production of late is becoming almost cartoon-like. After blasting three home runs in his first three at-bats Wednesday against the Orioles and then hitting another one Thursday against the Twins, Beltre added a fifth homer in three games with his fifth-inning solo job into the left-field bleachers. In the first inning, Beltre's RBI triple made it 1-0. It was his first triple since July 26, 2010, at Anaheim. In the second, he doubled home Ian Kinsler. His homer gave him his third consecutive three-hit game.
Beltre and the cycle: With one out in the seventh, Beltre singled to right for the cycle, the second time he's accomplished the feat in his career. His first also came at Rangers Ballpark in 2008 as a member of the Seattle Mariners. Three of his hits that night came off Harrison. Beltre's cycle is the first for the Rangers since Bengie Molina's unlikely romp at Fenway Park on July 16, 2010. Ian Kinsler was the last Rangers player to hit for the cycle at home, racking up six hits on April 15, 2009.
Beltre had to settle for a 4-for-4 night. He was on-deck in the bottom of the eighth when Josh Hamilton grounded out to end the inning.
Web gems: Every no-hit bid needs stellar defensive work behind it, and Harrison got some right up until he lost his bid with two outs in the seventh inning when Plouffe roped a single to left. The previous batter, Ryan Doumit, sent a flair into shallow left that David Murphy snared on a full-out dive. To start the fifth, first baseman Mitch Moreland made a fine stab of a grounder well to his right and flipped to the covering Harrison just in time to get leadoff hitter Ben Revere.
Picked again: One of the few negative plays on the night was Ian Kinsler's getting picked off of first base after leading off the game with a walk.
More from Moreland: Moreland collected two more hits Friday to take his average to .294.