Texas Rangers: Brandon Barnes

Matt Harrison's night goes downhill after fast start

April, 1, 2013

HOUSTON -- The strikeouts piled up for Texas Rangers starter Matt Harrison in the season opener as both pitchers dominated opposing hitters early on.

[+] EnlargeMatt Harrison
AP Photo/Pat SullivanMatt Harrison tied a career-high with nine strikeouts against the Astros.
Needing to match Houston's Bud Norris -- who was manhandling Rangers hitters -- Harrison was cruising along with six strikeouts through the first 12 batters he faced before the strange dimensions of Minute Maid Park and a young, aggressive Houston Astros team got the best of him.

On an opening night where everything that went against the Rangers was surprising, it was Harrison who blinked first in the Rangers' 8-2 loss to the Astros in front of a sellout crowd and a national TV audience.

Harrison's first opening day start started with a blaze and slowly went downhill.

It started with one out in the fourth inning. Harrison got ahead of Astros first baseman Brett Wallace with with a cutter for a called strike and a curveball for a swinging strike. Wallace fouled off a cutter and then was able to reach a high fastball for a single up the middle. With two outs, Carlos Pena, who had fanned in his first at-bat, then beat a shift for another hit with the Rangers playing three infielders on the right side.

The inning got stranger from there as the Astros' No. 1 hero in this night, center fielder Justin Maxwell, lofted a fly ball into left field that appeared destined for David Murphy's glove. Only Murphy didn't get a chance to catch it because of Minute Maid's bandbox dimensions. He looked up as the baseball bounced off the scoreboard for a 314-foot triple to give Houston a 2-0 lead.

It was that kind of night for Harrison, who was great, then unlucky and then let walks get to him (more on that coming).

"It was just a matter of not executing the pitches, especially in the at-bats to Wallace and Pena," Harrison said. "They were being very aggressive, all the guys were. I felt if I just executed the pitches better, maybe farther down in the zone, I might have got some swings and misses or weaker contact. I just have to do a better job of executing pitches when I have to."

Walks and an error by right fielder Nelson Cruz put Harrison and the Rangers in a deeper hole. The Astros scored twice more in the fifth inning when Brandon Barnes, who had been way late on fastballs in the second inning, managed to walk with one out in the fifth. Ronny Cedeno, the Astros' No. 9 hitter, followed with a single to right that Cruz bobbled and then kicked away to allow Barnes to score. Jose Altuve followed with a single for a 4-0 lead.

Walks then did Harrison and the Rangers in after the offense had battled back -- his teammates pounded out all of six singles -- with two runs in the top of the sixth to make it a 4-2 game. Harrison walked Maxwell with one out and after getting Jason Castro to fly out, fell behind Matt Dominguez and walked him, forcing manager Ron Washington to go to the bullpen.

"One hundred pitches was as far he could go," Washington said of Harrison.

Derek Lowe came in and missed on a breaking ball to Rick Ankiel, who smacked a three-run home run to right field for a 7-2 Astros lead.

And Harrison's hopes for an opening day win were gone.

"They're a young, aggressive team," Washington said. "They played well tonight."

Harrison said he would spend Monday's off day with his family and try to put Sunday's start behind him.

"Just have to wipe it out of my mind and get ready for the next one," Harrison said.

Rapid Reaction: Astros 8, Rangers 2

March, 31, 2013

HOUSTON -- The Astros scored six runs off Rangers starter Matt Harrison, five of them earned, in an 8-2 victory in Houston's American League debut at Minute Maid Park.

What it means: The Rangers lost for the first time in a season opener in five tries, the four previous wins coming at home. The Rangers have lost five straight road season openers, their last win coming against the Angels in Anaheim in 2003.

Berkman's debut: Lance Berkman was 2-for-4 in his first game as a Ranger against his old team of 11-plus years. Berkman had a single during the Rangers' two-run rally in the sixth inning that temporarily put them back in the game.

Power outage: The Rangers didn't produce an extra-base hit in their first game without Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli. Berkman came the closest with line drive into left-center, but Astros center fielder Justin Maxwell did a nice job of holding Berkman to a single.

Harrison up and down: Harrison matched a career high with nine strikeouts and at moments was dazzling in the season opener. But his command of the strike zone left him at times, leading to three walks, all of which came around to score. One came during Houston's two-run fifth inning and was aided by an error by right fielder Nelson Cruz. The others came after Harrison walked two and was replaced by Derek Lowe, who gave up a three-run homer.

The dropsies: First it was Cruz, then Ian Kinsler who couldn't hold onto the ball as the Astros scored twice in the fifth inning. Houston shortstop Ronny Cedeno lined a single to right field and Cruz bobbled the ball and then kicked it away, allowing Brandon Barnes to score all the way from first base. Kinsler dropped the relay throw, which gave Cedeno third base. Cedeno scored on Jose Altuve's single as the Astros took a 4-0 lead.

Lowe point: Ron Washington went to Lowe with two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth and the Astros hanging on to a 4-2 lead. Astros manager Bo Porter countered the right-handed reliever with left-handed pinch hitter Rick Ankiel. Porter got the win as Ankiel ripped a 3-2 slider over the right field fence in his Astros debut against Lowe in his Rangers debut.

Tough opener for Martin: Leonys Martin was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his first opening-day start. He also had a weak ground ball to third base. Martin's second strikeout came on a fastball that wasn't held onto by Astros catcher Jason Castro, but Martin started walking back to the dugout instead of running to first base.

Ortiz makes debut: Reliever Joe Ortiz made his major league debut and allowed a run in the eighth inning. He allowed a triple to Maxwell and an infield single to Matt Dominguez.

Up next: The Rangers are off Monday and will send Yu Darvish to the mound against Houston's Lucas Harrell at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW.



Adrian Beltre
.324 18 73 77
HRA. Beltre 18
RBIA. Beltre 73
RA. Beltre 77
OPSA. Beltre .876
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.12
SOY. Darvish 182