June 29, 2012

Gentry, Harrison carry Rangers to another victory

Craig Gentry's three-run triple turns another solid Matt Harrison outing into a win.

ARLINGTON -- No matter how many different ways the question was asked Friday night, Matt Harrison wasn't going to give in.

His focus isn't the 83rd All-Star Game in less than two weeks, but his start next week at Chicago.

Any talk of a spot on the American League team will have to wait until Sunday, when it seems to be a certainty that he will be selected to his first Midsummer Classic.

That would have been the case had his and the Texas Rangers' fortune not changed in a four-run eighth inning that led them to a 4-3 victory over Oakland.

Instead, the late rally, capped by a bases-loaded triple by Craig Gentry with two outs and preserved by Tanner Scheppers' first career save, pushed Harrison's record to 11-3 with a tidy 3.16 ERA after he allowed two runs in eight bullpen-saving innings.

That's All-Star stuff, even if he didn't want to talk about it.

"I know it's a possibility, but I'm still looking at another start against Chicago," Harrison said. "I'm going to get rested tonight, come back and prepare and get ready for that start. We'll see what happens. You're not going to get it out of me."

The Rangers got plenty out of Harrison, who delivered a season-high 121 pitches and finished with seven strikeouts on a night when the Rangers were not going to use primary set-up man Mike Adams and closer Joe Nathan in a fourth straight game for each right-hander.

Harrison issued a triple to Jemile Weeks and a single to Yoenis Cespedes to start the fourth inning, and surrendered a two-out RBI single to Coco Crisp in the fifth.

But Harrison was still standing three innings later, even though he was in a 2-0 hole.

"It's huge for the bullpen," he said. "We've been playing a lot of close games lately, and those guys needed a break."

Two runs usually is good enough to get a win, but the Rangers had been stifled for six innings by A's rookie A.J. Griffin.

The Rangers threatened in the second inning when they loaded the bases with one out. Mike Napoli, though, struck out looking and Leonys Martin lined out to first base to end their only threat against Griffin.

The right-hander would retire 13 straight before Josh Hamilton dumped a blooper into left field with two outs in the sixth, Griffin's final inning.

The A's bullpen, though, made it a game. The Rangers finally broke through in the eighth as Elvis Andrus singled and Hamilton walked with one out. After Adrian Beltre flied out, Grant Balfour walked Michael Young and Nelson Cruz to push home the first Rangers' run.

Gentry followed with a drive to left that Cespedes initially charged before realizing the ball would carry over his head. The Rangers led 4-2, and Scheppers would hang on despite allowing a two-out solo homer to Chris Carter in the ninth.

"Off the bat I knew I hit it decent, but, to be honest with you, I thought he was probably going to catch it," said Gentry, who had entered as a pinch hitter in the seventh. "Luckily, he moved in on it a little bit and I was able to drop it over his head."

The victory pushed the Rangers' record to a season-high 20 games over .500 at 49-29, the best mark in baseball. Their lead in the AL West sits at 5 1/2 games.

The Rangers have won 16 of their past 20 games. Harrison won four of them, took a no-decision in another, and finished June 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA.

That's All-Star stuff.

"Without a doubt," said manager Ron Washington, the AL All-Star team skipper. "He's been pitching like an All-Star all year."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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