Strong defense backs Harrison in Texas Rangers' victory

MINNEAPOLIS -- Matt Harrison walked off the Target Field mound in June unable to feel his left arm after a line drive had pegged him near the elbow.

He had allowed only a run in yet another start when the Texas Rangers' offense couldn't muster any support. At the time, they hadn't even mustered a hit.

They provided enough offense Friday night in Harrison's Minnesota return. More importantly, the players behind him provided terrific defense as the Rangers opened a three-game series against the Twins with a 4-1 victory.

Harrison allowed one run in eight innings, Ian Kinsler hit his fourth homer of the season, and the Rangers were flawless with the glove as Harrison produced 14 ground-ball outs.

Two of the three fly-ball outs behind Harrison were made on diving catches by Nelson Cruz in right field and David Murphy in left.

"That was outstanding," said Harrison, the first Rangers starter this season to get 24 outs. "Whenever they put the ball in play, it seemed like they were making plays behind me. I can't say enough about what they did."

Michael Young had two singles to become the Rangers' all-time leader in total bases at 3,074, passing Juan Gonzalez, and Elvis Andrus went 3 for 4 as the Rangers won for only the second time in 11 games at Target Field.

Andrus' biggest play, though, was on a throw from Alexi Ogando in the ninth. Ogando, the closer as the Rangers gave Joe Nathan an extra day of rest, muffed a potential double-play grounder after the first two Twins had reached.

He recovered, but his throw to second base short-hopped Andrus.

"I didn't see the ball," said Andrus, whose catch helped Ogando earn his first career save. "I just put my glove in a good location, and it went in there. It was a good save."

Harrison (2-0) allowed a run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia, the player who hit the arm-numbing liner in June, and avoided more damage by striking out Luke Hughes with runners at second and third.

Minnesota managed only six base runners the next six innings against Harrison, who threw 111 pitches. His best pitch was No. 109, a 94 mph sinker that Joe Mauer hit at Kinsler to start a double play after Jamey Carroll had started the eighth with a single.

"That's not a really easy ground ball," Andrus said. "Ian released the ball as quickly as he could. It was a big play for us in that inning."

Harrison also struck out Mauer to end the fifth and strand runners at first and third. Mauer and Justin Morneau, both left-handed hitters and both former MVPs, went 1 for 8 against the left-handed Harrison.

Lefties hit .275 against him last season, and Harrison's goal this season was to toughen up against them.

"I think his curveball has been an equalizer against lefties," manager Ron Washington said. "He left none inside to Mauer and none inside to Morneau. They had to reach for them."

Said Harrison, who lowered his ERA to 0.64 after his first 14 innings: "I know they can swing the bat. It's just a matter of making sure I hit my spots with guys and try not to duplicate what I did the at-bat before."

The Rangers trailed 1-0 before plating three runs in the fourth, an inning that started with singles by Andrus and Josh Hamilton against Anthony Swarzak (0-2). Adrian Beltre and Young followed with RBI singles, and Murphy added a sacrifice fly two batters later.

Kinsler started the seventh with a 379-foot liner into the left-field seats to move into a tie for the league lead.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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