July 15, 2012

Harrison, Beltre lead Rangers to shutout win over Seattle

Matt Harrison starts the second half with a complete-game gem.

SEATTLE -- To give Matt Harrison the nickname "Mr. Automatic" wouldn't be 100 percent accurate. After all, he was the losing pitcher in his final game before the All-Star break.

But to say that the Texas Rangers aren't thinking about a victory each time the left-hander takes the mound would be completely inaccurate.

And Harrison rewarded them again Sunday afternoon.

The first-time All-Star tossed his second five-hit shutout of the season, and Adrian Beltre had a terrific all-around game as the Rangers beat Seattle 4-0 to clinch the three-game series.

At 12-4, Harrison is the American League leader in victories and is tied with Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey for the major league lead. His ERA dropped below 3 to 2.87 after 18 starts and 122 2/3 innings.

"I'm just going to try to keep taking it one pitch at a time," Harrison said. "For the most part I was able to do that today. I hope to continue doing what I'm doing and stay healthy, stay on the mound and keep taking the ball every fifth day."

Harrison continued his first-half roll in his first start after the All-Star break, scattering four singles and a double and working around four walks.

He has logged at least eight innings in each of his past three starts and improved to 8-1 with a 1.34 ERA in his past 10. He upped his career record against Seattle to 9-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 16 games.

But it wasn't easy early as he issued a walk in each of the first two innings. The Mariners had runners at first and second with two outs in those innings and again in the fifth, but they couldn't get the key hit before Harrison harnessed his command.

He worked perfect innings in the third, fourth and sixth as the Rangers built their lead, and he encountered trouble only once the rest of the way.

Seattle's No. 8 and 9 hitters reached on a single and a walk with one out in the seventh, but Harrison got Brendan Ryan to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Harrison closed the game with 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth and struck out Miguel Olivo to seal the Rangers' seventh shutout of the season and their first since June 13 against Arizona.

"Harry wants to have the ball," manager Ron Washington said. "He's making his pitches when he has to. He went out there in the seventh, eighth and ninth and did what he had to when you're a very good pitcher -- your team has the lead and you want to be in the game late."

Harrison acknowledged that the defense helped make the shutout possible, especially the Gold Glove-winning Beltre. He had six assists and a putout at third base and started two double plays as Mariners hitters kept beating Harrison's sinking fastball into the ground.

"I was just praying he had a cup on," Harrison said.

Harrison was handed a 1-0 lead in the first as the Rangers scored before recording a base hit. Ian Kinsler walked, went to second on a passed ball, to third on an Elvis Andrus groundout and scored on a groundout by Josh Hamilton.

Beltre delivered a two-run single in the third as part of a 3-for-4 game that lifted his batting average to .327. He delivered a 3-0 lead after Hisashi Iwakuma intentionally walked Hamilton to load the bases.

"It doesn't make me mad, but it fires me up," said Beltre, who has a habit of beating teams that walk Hamilton ahead of him. "I don't blame teams for doing it, but I want that challenge. I like it, and I want to come through in those situations."

Kinsler started the fifth inning with his 10th homer, and Harrison took care of the rest.

He might not be "Mr. Automatic," but he's the closest thing the Rangers have to it.

"We definitely trust him, no doubt," Kinsler said.

"You gain trust in him every time he goes out and does that. Harry's done it, and he just added another well-pitched game to his season."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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