Shin-Soo Choo tripled in the ninth inning Tuesday night to hit for the cycle, a feat that had been accomplished only seven times previously in Texas Rangers history.
Delino DeShields had a chance in the same inning for a second cycle, but his bid for a home run never left his bat. Nevertheless, the rookie still collected a career-high four hits.
Neither Choo, who has found himself in part-time duty since the All-Star break, or DeShields, who has proven to be an indispensable player for the Rangers, were the story of the Rangers’ 9-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Matt Harrison was.
The left-hander delivered six scoreless innings in his second start since undergoing major back surgery in June 2014, and flashed the kind of velocity that Rangers brass was hoping to see as he tried to hang onto his spot in the rotation.
His first start July 8 was the end of a long road on the rehab trail. His start at Coors Field, a hitter’s paradise, could rate as the launching point to a being a viable big-league pitcher again.
“The first time I stepped on the mound was an accomplishment,” Harrison said. “But today was more of a confidence boost but also showed that I can still pitcher here. That was huge for me.”
Harrison (1-1) scattered seven hits and pitched out of trouble in a 28-pitch first inning, a 19-pitch fifth inning, and, oddly enough, a four-pitch fourth inning. He was at 49 pitches after two innings, but needed only 42 more before getting replaced after the sixth.
Manager Jeff Banister said that Harrison wasn’t pleased to be pulled, and claimed that he felt good enough to return for the eighth. Instead, right-handers Spencer Patton, Keone Kela and Shawn Tolleson completed the shutout.
The significance of Harrison’s performance after making only six starts combined in 2013 and 2014 while having three back operations, including the fusion of the L5-S1 disk, wasn’t lost on Banister or Harrison’s teammates.
“To see them come in and congratulate him and know exactly where he’s comes from, to be able to do that was really special,” Banister said. “I get emotional over these type of performances and opportunities and just moments in time in players’ careers and their lives with just where they’ve been and what they’ve had to overcome.”
The Rangers had concerns about Harrison after he topped out at only 87 mph while allowing six runs in four innings against Arizona. But he threw 23 pitches at 89 to 91 mph, a significant uptick after tweaking his mechanics during a bullpen session.
His two-seamer also had more sink to it, and he benefited from two double plays behind him.
One came in the fourth after Nolan Arenado opened with a double on the first pitch. Wilin Rosario bounced the next pitch to shortstop for the first out, and Drew Stubbs grounded the next pitch for a single. But Nick Hundley chopped the next pitch up the middle, and Elvis Andrus ranged from shortstop to turn the inning-ending double play.
Four pitches, two hits, three outs.
Harrison retired Troy Tulowitzki all three times, and the All-Star failed to reach base in a game for the first time since May 26.
“Every time we got something going he got a groundball, made a pitch,” Tulowitzki said. “We just couldn’t get anything going. It was one of those games. We fell behind, and he made some pitches when he needed to.”
Harrison very well may have had to earn his next start.
“I think so,” he said. “I think I’ve been needing to do that for a while.”
Choo needed a breakout game after starting for only the second time in the second half. He had two hits Saturday at Houston, and Banister said that he saw a confident Choo at Minute Maid Park.
Choo opened the scoring with an RBI double in the second, started the fourth with a homer, added an RBI single in the fifth and sent a drive to center field in the ninth that bounded far enough away from Charlie Blackmon to allow Choo to easily reach third.
The All-Star break did him some good. It fell the game after his sorry play in right field that led to a San Diego run and contributed to a second straight loss to close a 1-7 road trip to end the first half.
“I think everything came together,” said Choo, who became the first Rangers player since Alex Rios in 2013 to hit for the cycle. “I think what helped was the All-Star break, four days off, a good mental break. I feel a lot better than the first half.”
DeShields struck out three batters later to end his bid at a cycle. He would have needed his first career homer to join Choo, but it didn’t ruin his night.
He and Choo, though, were overshadowed by Harrison.
“All in all, what a great night for everybody,” Banister said.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760