Matt Harrison felt better Tuesday night than he had before any other start this season, but it was tough to tell after another ragged first inning.
What the left-hander knew, though, was that he would have a chance to pitch deep into the game if he could get himself straightened out.
To do it, he had to fix his mechanics and let his defense do its job under the roof at spacious Safeco Field. They both came together at the right time for the Rangers.
Harrison recovered from a 35-pitch first inning to allow only one run in seven-plus innings, and Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton had critical two-out hits in the third inning as the Rangers squeaked past Seattle 3-1.
Hamilton also made two spectacular catches in center field, including one to end the first inning in what was the play of the game. Andrus and Adrian Beltre also chipped in with the glove to snap the Mariners' four-game inning streak.
The Rangers managed only four hits.
“It definitely wasn't the way I wanted to start the first inning,” Harrison said. “I really felt good coming into the game. I may have been overthrowing a little bit.
“I knew after the first I had to start pounding the strike zone. I kept the defense on their toes, and they were making outstanding plays behind me.”
Harrison (5-3) allowed the only Mariners run in the first, an inning that included two walks, two singles and a running, over-the-shoulder catch by Hamilton at the wall in center field to rob Casper Wells of what would have been a three-run double.
Hamilton was at it again to start the third, when he jumped at the wall in center to rob Alex Liddi of extra bases.
“It says 405 out there [on the center-field wall], but it plays like 445,” manager Ron Washington said.
Harrison navigated the second, third and fourth innings in only 25 pitches, dodged trouble in the fifth, and retired seven of the next eight batters.
He returned for the eighth at 106 pitches, and Liddi and Ichiro Suzuki opened with back to-back singles.
“I felt good about him going back out there,” Washington said. “It just didn't work out.”
Mike Adams replaced Harrison, and got Jesus Montero to fly out and struck out Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager on full-count pitches that tailed out of the strike zone.
Joe Nathan, who had blown a save April 11 against the Mariners at Rangers Ballpark, was perfect in the ninth for his 10th save.
“That's some very tough relief pitching,” Washington said.
Andrus and Hamilton erased the Rangers' early deficit against Hector Noesi, who had walked two in the third but had two outs before surrendering a two-run triple to Andrus.
Hamilton followed with an RBI double, but that would be just about it for the Rangers' offense as Noesi retired 16 of the next 17 batters.Those two hits in the third, though, were just enough.
“It was a hanging curveball,” Andrus said of the pitch he drove into the left-center gap. “I wasn't looking for that one. I wasn't trying to do too much in that situation, and I'm glad the ball got in the gap. An inning like that can be enough.”
Said Washington: “We got four hits, and we made them all count. Sometimes you've got to win ballgames like that. I feel like we can win ballgames, and I feel like we can win ballgames any kind of way. Tonight it took some good pitching and some good defense.”