ARLINGTON -- There are a couple of ways to look at what Matt Harrison did on Saturday night. On one hand, the Tampa Bays Rays are in first place with the second-best record in the American League. On the other hand, they aren't exactly an offensive powerhouse, and they were missing three key players for different reasons. The Rangers could care less either way. They needed something like this badly, and Harrison delivered brilliantly with maybe the eight best innings thrown by a Texas pitcher this year in a 3-0 victory over the Rays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"We needed a well-pitched job and got it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The night belonged to Matt Harrison." The victory snapped the Rangers' four-game losing streak and another streak of six straight games in which their pitchers have allowed at least seven runs. The bats are still in a bit of a slumber, but Ian Kinsler snapped their 19-inning scoreless streak when he led off the first inning with his 18th home run of the year. It was his fifth home run to lead off the first inning this season and it looked like it had given the Rangers an insurmountable lead with the way Harrison was pitching. "To go out there and shut them down like that is awesome," Harrison said. Harrison, combining a 92-93-mph fastball with an effective changeup and an occasional slider, allowed just three hits over eight innings. He allowed two hits in the first, one in the third and then retired the last 18 batters he faced before Eddie Guardado took over for the ninth. "The first couple of innings I wasn't comfortable yet," Harrison said. "But after a while I just kept attacking hitters. I just wanted to go out, have a good time, not fall behind hitters and walk people, keep the ball down and stay aggressive. "I established my fastball and was able to move it in and out. Then I was able to throw my changeup and slider for strikes and later they started chasing them." Harrison struck out eight and did not walk anybody. In his previous seven starts, he had walked 19 and struck out seven. He was so good that Washington sent him out for the eighth inning even though he had Frank Francisco rested and ready to go. Harrison responded by retiring the side in order with two strikeouts. "He made it look easy," Washington said. "He hit his spots ... anything he had to do, he did it tonight. His poise was outstanding." Harrison is now 5-2 with a 5.77 ERA in his eight starts. Despite the inflated ERA, he has still won four of his last five starts with a 4.03 ERA. This is only the sixth time that a Rangers starter has gone eight innings in a game this season and the first since Kevin Millwood on June 20 against the Nationals in Washington. The only other Rangers pitcher to throw eight scoreless innings in a game was Vicente Padilla in a 10-0 victory against the Twins on April 27. Harrison did need a little help from defense, and center fielder Josh Hamilton made the play of the game in the sixth. Ben Zobrist hit a blast to deep center, but Hamilton got ball to the wall and made a leaping catch to snatch a potential home run. That kept it from a tie game until the offense could give Harrison more than just one run. The Rangers finally gave him some breathing room in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double by Michael Young and a bases-loaded walk by Brandon Boggs against reliever Chad Bradford. The Rangers were without Milton Bradley, who was scratched just before game time. He was feeling under the weather. The Rangers, after scoring 32 runs in two straight games, have still scored just seven runs in their last 38 innings. They have scored in just three of those 38 innings. But what they've been missing most has been pitching, and Hamilton delivered a gem Saturday. "It was awesome," Hamilton said. "He had a great game last time he was here against the Yankees. It seems like every time out he gets better and better, and it's been good for his confidence."
Shaun Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.