Instead, the Rangers knocked around the A's Justin Duchscherer like he hasn't been knocked around all year and pulled away to a 9-4 victory at McAfee Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The Rangers, riding home runs from Josh Hamilton, Chris Davis and Marlon Byrd, have won eight of 11 over the Athletics this year.
"Duchscherer has been great all year, but we have a lot of confidence in Matt," Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. "He has a lot of poise and wants to be a good Major League pitcher."
Harrison, who left the game with a small blister on his left index finger, hardly pitched a masterpiece, allowing three runs on five hits, three walks and a hit batter in five innings of work. But only one of the runs was earned, and Harrison did a better job than Duchscherer of limiting the damage by holding the Athletics to 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
"That one felt pretty good," Harrison said. "I wish I could have gone longer in the game but not with the pitch count (86) and the blister on the finger. I could have gotten ahead of hitters more and kept my pitch count down, but the ball was coming out of my hand a lot better today than before."
The game's biggest moment for Harrison came in the first inning, when he walked Carlos Gonzalez and Kurt Suzuki with one out. Harrison fell behind Emil Brown 3-and-1 but got him on a fly ball to right. Harrison also fell behind Bobby Crosby 2-and-0 but got him to pop out to first base, and the inning was over.
"Three-and-one, fastball outside corner and he popped it up," Harrison said. "That gave me a little more confidence. Then 2-and-0, popped it up again and that gave me even more confidence. They weren't getting good wood on the fastball, so I kept attacking them."
Harrison came into the game having allowing 13 runs in his last two starts. That's one more than Duchscherer had allowed in his last nine starts going back to the beginning of June.
Duchscherer also had not allowed more than two runs in his last 11 starts, the longest such streak in the history of a club known for great starting pitching. He had also allowed just three earned runs in a game just once in his 18 starts. But he was also going against the league's highest-scoring offense.
"With our lineup, I'll take our chances no matter who is out there," Byrd said.
Duchscherer's problems started in the second inning, when he walked Hank Blalock with one out and Byrd followed with a single to center. David Murphy forced Byrd with a grounder to second but Davis followed with a double into the left-field corner to give the Rangers the lead. Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with a double into the left-center-field gap to make it 3-0.
"It just seemed like today they were seeing the ball well and guessing right every time," Duchscherer said. "They flat out beat me. I felt like we didn't get in a pattern. I was going out and then would come in on them. They just had a good approach."
Another walk and another big two-out hit by the Rangers inflicted more damage on Duchscherer in the fifth. Saltalamacchia walked with one out and Ian Kinsler singled. Young struck out, but Hamilton ripped a 1-1 pitch deep over the left-field wall to give the Rangers a 6-2 lead.
"I don't think I can hit the ball harder than that the other way," Hamilton said.
The Rangers ended up scoring nine runs even though their cleanup hitters were 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Milton Bradley started there and struck out twice before being ejected by home-plate umpire Jerry Meals in the third inning. It's the third time that Bradley has been ejected this year.
Frank Catalanotto and Max Ramirez each struck out once in the spot, but there was plenty of offense available from the rest of the lineup to get the job done against one of the hottest pitchers in the game. Duchscherer ended up allowing eight runs in six-plus innings, and his ERA went up from 1.87 to 2.37 in one afternoon.
"They're just tough," Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "They're tough up and down the lineup -- one to nine, they've got guys who can hit good pitches. Sometimes you have to tip your hat."