SAN DIEGO -- Matt Harrison said that having nine victories well before the midway point of the season is weird, and Michael Young described the Texas Rangers' play of late as unusual.
But both Harrison and the Rangers kept up their winning ways Monday night in a game that saw all three runs scored in the first inning and featured more inconsistency from the Rangers' offense.
Harrison and three relievers, though, made David Murphy's two-run single in the first inning stand up, and the Rangers beat San Diego 2-1 for their fourth straight win.
The Rangers' lead in the American League West jumped to five games as Harrison became one of seven pitchers in the majors with nine victories.Mark Lowe, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan finished off the final three innings as the Rangers won despite collecting only five hits.
“That's Rangers baseball over the last few weeks, unusual games,” Young said. “The silver lining is we're not even close to playing our best baseball, but we're finding ways to win.”
Murphy's hit came after consecutive two-out walks were issued by Jason Marquis, who then settled in and finished with 10 strikeouts in seven innings.
The Padres had a golden opportunity to pull even or take the lead in their half of the first as Chris Denorfia and Cameron Maybin opened with singles and Chase Headley followed with a double off the center-field wall at spacious Petco Park.
Denorfia, though, held up as Leonys Martin tracked the Headley drive, and Maybin had to hold at third on a play that should have scored two runs.Harrison (9-3, 3.41 ERA) then got Carlos Quentin on a shallow pop to center, struck out Jesus Guzman and retired Everth Cabrera on a grounder to shortstop.
“Fortunately, I was able to make some pitches to get out of that and keep the score 2-1,” Harrison said. “By the third or fourth I started to find my rhythm and found my release point a little bit better and started to command my fastball and make my pitches.”
He had one more jam to escape, in the sixth. The Padres had the bases loaded with two outs, but Harrison got pinch hitter Yonder Alonso to ground to Young at first base.
Manager Ron Washington said that the way Harrison limited damage in the first and sixth is an indication that the left-hander has matured as a pitcher.
“Harrison is growing up big-time,” Washington said. “It could have been worse in the first, [but] minimal damage. It could have gotten bad in the sixth. He staved off the damage and was able to get the ball to the back end of our bullpen.”
Lowe then worked a perfect seventh, with two strikeouts, but Adams and Nathan both faced two-out threats in the eighth and ninth before wiggling free.
“It was a solid ballgame, and it was crisp,” Washington said. “I was so glad we were able to hold on.”