At one point Saturday, things were such a mystery for Matt Harrison that he started an inning out of the stretch.
That didn’t seem to work either for the Texas Rangers’ left-hander, as Erick Aybar opened the fifth with a double.
Shortly thereafter, Harrison’s second start of the season was done after 4 1/3 innings, and the Los Angeles Angels would score twice after he exited en route to a 5-3 victory.
But something in all that mess that Harrison labored through had to be positive. He allowed only three runs, keeping his team in the game. That might not seem like much, but that’s the No. 1 thing the Rangers want from their pitchers.
Harrison, though only two starts into his comeback from two back surgeries a year ago, wants more.
“Overall, it was a rough night,” Harrison said. “It wasn’t something I wanted to go out there and do and kill the bullpen. I put myself in a situation where I had to make perfect pitches, and it just wasn’t happening.
“Luckily I got out of there without allowing 10 runs.”
C.J. Cron, playing in his first major-league game, collected three hits and drove in three runs, including the go-ahead single in the sixth, and Howie Kendrick went 4 for 5 and drove in an insurance run in the eighth for the Angels.
Mike Trout and Luis Jimenez were the only two Angels hitters who didn’t reach against Harrison, who saw 13 of the 26 batters he faced get on base. He allowed 10 hits — at least two in every inning he finished — and needed 96 pitches to record 13 outs.
“One pitch from the other was never the same,” Harrison said. “I’ve got to look at the video and see what’s going on.”
Shawn Tolleson was hit with the loss after allowing a two-out broken-bat single to Cron in the sixth to bring in the go-ahead run. The rookie, whose brother, Kevin, plays at TCU, was jammed on a slider that kept running in, but he managed to dump it into left field.
“It backed up so much that I’m surprised he swung at it,” Tolleson said.
The Angels scored their first two runs, in the first and the third, after rallying with two outs. Cron collected the RBI each time for a 2-0 lead.
But the Rangers pulled ahead with a three-run fourth, an inning that started with consecutive singles by Prince Fielder and Alex Rios. Mitch Moreland brought home Fielder with a fielder’s choice, and Robinson Chirinos came up big three batters later with a two-out single to right that scored Moreland and tied the game.
Shin-Soo Choo followed with a single past the mound and into center field for a 3-2 lead.
Harrison, though, issued back-to-back singles to open the home half, and Albert Pujols tied it two batters later with a liner to left field.
“Every inning the leadoff guys were getting on,” Harrison said. “When you’re putting guys on in front of Trout and Pujols and those guys, it makes it a lot harder on yourself.”
Harrison exited in the fifth, after the Angels put runners at second and third with one out. Tolleson struck out Grant Green, and got Collin Cowgill on a popup to end the threat and keep the Rangers in a 3-3 tie.
“You’ve got to give him credit. He was out there fighting without his best stuff,” manager Ron Washington said of Harrison. “He made some pitches when he had to. When he left the ballgame, we were still in it.”
The Rangers had their chances against Garrett Richards. Their big fourth could have been more damaging, but Elvis Andrus struck out after the Choo single.
Andrus couldn’t deliver again in the sixth, with Chirinos at third and Choo, who had been walked intentionally, at first. Richards again got Andrus to strike out.
In the seventh, Adrian Beltre led off with a towering drive to left field that Grant Green, playing in left field for the first time in his career, leaped to catch to rob Beltre of a double.
“We hit some balls hard that they made some plays on,” Washington said. “Their bullpen did a good job after that. We just couldn’t get anything going.”
Tolleson (0-1) couldn’t escape in the sixth despite striking out Trout and Pujols to start the inning. Kendrick extended the inning with a double to right-center, and Cron’s jam-shot brought Kendrick home.
Kendrick added an RBI double in the eighth against Alexi Ogando, who was making his league-leading 17th appearance.