August 3, 2012

Harrison's grit, Moreland's power lift Rangers to victory

The lefty pitches into the seventh and Mitch Moreland smacks a three-run blast in a 5-3 win over Kansas City.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There is a different feeling when Matt Harrison is on the mound this year.

He doesn't want to get taken out of the game, and he certainly doesn't want to be pulled in the middle of an inning.

Manager Ron Washington calls it a "mean streak," something he hadn't seen from Harrison in the past.

It's something, though, that has served Harrison well in becoming an All-Star pitcher and being among the league leaders in wins, ERA and innings pitched this season.

Harrison showed his growth again Friday night, overcoming lackluster command the first three innings to pitch into the seventh inning of the Rangers' 5-3 victory over the Royals.

Mitch Moreland had a pivotal three-run home run in the seventh, and Alexi Ogando turned in a perfect ninth for his second career save on a night that closer Joe Nathan was unavailable.

The Rangers maintained at least a 41/2-game lead over the Athletics and a six-game lead over the Angels in the American League West.

Harrison seemed in line for a short outing early on, hovering around the 70-pitch mark after three innings. But he regrouped and made the necessary adjustments to work into the seventh inning.

"My confidence has grown a lot in myself and trusting myself," said Harrison, who won his 13th game. "I understand why I get taken out of games, but I hate getting taking out of innings. I think it's just I want to compete and be one of the best pitchers in the game."

Harrison showed what elite pitchers do when in trouble, too. He gave up a run in the second, but it could have been worse.

The first three Royals batters reached, but the run scored on a double-play grounder. Harrison then ended the inning by getting Chris Getz to ground out.

Harrison worked out of a jam in the sixth inning, as well. The Royals had two straight one-out singles by Billy Butler and Salvador Perez, but Harrison escaped unscathed by inducing an inning-ending double-play grounder by Jeff Francoeur.

"That double play was huge," Harrison said. "I know Francoeur likes to swing, so I tried to keep the ball down in the zone and make him put the ball on the ground. I was able to make the pitch and they were able to turn the double play."

In the seventh, Harrison got two quick outs before giving up a pair of infield singles. Alcides Escobar drove in a run with a single to center, ending Harrison's night.

Mike Adams gave up a run in the eighth, but Ogando closed out the game in impressive fashion. He sat in the 97-98 mph range in a 1-2-3 inning.

"He blew them away," Washington said. "He's good in those situations where he can let it all go, and he let it all go."

Moreland let loose on an 0-2 slider from Royals left-handed reliever Jose Mijares in the seventh after fouling off three straight pitches. Moreland swatted his first home run since being activated off the disabled list into the right-field fountains at Kauffman Stadium.

"I kept fouling off what I could and just trying to hang in there and hang in there," Moreland said. "I got one and it worked out."

Washington said he stuck with Moreland in the lefty-lefty matchup because he knew the Royals would have turned to a right-hander if he used Mike Olt as a pinch hitter.

"Moreland grinds out his at-bats and he always puts on a good at-bat," Washington said. "He caught a pitch. He caught a big pitch because it gave us the win."

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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