ARLINGTON -- In end, this should have been all about Matt Harrison. This should have been about a 22-year-old left-hander, in his sixth Major League start, outpitching one of the best left-handers of this generation with the usual help of the Rangers' powerful offense and some nice defensive plays by their defense. And that's really what this was about, even if overshadowed by the side show in the eighth inning when C.J. Wilson made his first appearance as a setup reliever, gave up a grand slam to Richie Sexson and ended up going on the disabled list after the game.
Despite all that, the Rangers were still able to hold on for an 8-6 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run in the first inning and the Rangers have won two straight and six of nine on their 11-game homestand to put them six games over .500 for the first time this season. "That's huge," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "The only thing we have to do is win the series tomorrow. You don't want to wait until Thursday. Splitting the series still means something but you want to kick them while they're down and get a sweep." Wilson, who has had two pregame bullpen sessions with new pitching coach Andy Hawkins, entered the game in the eighth inning with an 8-2 and had trouble throwing strikes. He walked two, hit a batter, struck out one, gave up a grand slam to Sexson and then got in trouble with manager Ron Washington for flipping the ball to him when he was taken out of the game. Jamey Wright had to get the final two outs of the inning and Eddie Guardado ended up closing out the ninth by getting Alex Rodriguez to hit into a game-ending double play for his third save. When it was finally over, Harrison had added Andy Pettitte to a collection of pitchers that he's beaten, a list that also includes All-Star left-hander Joe Saunders and American League ERA leader Justin Duchscherer. Pettitte isn't quite the pitcher he once was, but he's still a 12-game winner this season and one of the winningest left-handers in the game. He just wasn't good enough to beat the Rangers' rookie left-hander. Harrison is now 3-2 with a 6.46 ERA in six starts. That breaks down to 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in the three games he has been the winning pitcher and 0-2 with a 12.41 ERA in his other three starts. "It's pretty exciting," Harrison said. "Being left-handed, I try to model myself like guys like him. I was a little bit nervous because it was the Yankees, I never faced a team of that caliber before. I was nervous at first. I've been watching the Yankees since I was little, to get out there and pitch against them was exciting. "I felt like I had to prove [the Rangers] didn't make a mistake by leaving me up here. I got a lead, attacked hitters and stayed aggressive." Harrison allowed five hits and three walks but had his changeup working and was able to get three double plays turned behind him. Third baseman Travis Metcalf started all three. Harrison left to a standing ovation from 34,473 after allowing a walk to Robinson Cano and a double to Richie Sexson with one out in the seventh. "That's the best I've seen him throw since he got up here," catcher Gerald Laird said. "As the game went on, he got a little swagger going. He commanded all his pitches. It was a huge game for his confidence." Reliever Josh Rupe bailed him out in the seventh by getting the biggest out of the game. Rupe inherited runners on second and third with one out and proceeded to walk two of the next three hitters (mixing in a pop out) to force in a run. That brought up Derek Jeter in a 5-2 game with the bases loaded and Rupe fell behind 3-and-1 in the count. Then he threw an outside fastball that Jeter lined right at second baseman Ian Kinsler to end the inning. The Rangers immediately responded in the bottom of the inning with a two-out rally capped by a three-run double from Chris Davis. Washington, holding an 8-2 lead, thought that was a safe enough lead to let Wilson pitch. That almost proved to be a disaster, and when the game was over, Wilson ended up on the disabled list. That was the big news of the night. But the big win belonged to Harrison.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.