Lights out pitching paves way for Texas win

ARLINGTON, Texas — The way the Texas Rangers are pitching right now, all it takes for the team to have a chance is one run.

That’s all they got Wednesday night against Arizona, but it was enough as Matt Harrison and the bullpen made it stand up in a 1-0 victory over the Diamondbacks.

Texas starters have a 0.80 ERA in the last five games and the Rangers have been able to win four of them despite some erratic nights from the offense. The pitching has been the key as the Rangers have as many shutouts in the last five games (three) as they had in their first 58.

As has been the case for the last month, there was nothing erratic about Harrison Wednesday. While the left-hander did not figure in the decision, he pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings and ran his scoreless streak to 16 1/3.

Harrison, who had an ERA of 5.21 after a no-decision May 17 against Oakland, has lowered that mark to 3.54 and established himself as one of the stalwarts in the Texas rotation.

“Once I got on a little bit of a roll there, two or three starts ago, I think I found my groove,” said Harrison, who walked two and struck out three. “It’s just a matter of maintaining that, keeping the confidence and keeping the same thoughts in each at-bat.”

Harrison scattered six hits and pitched around a 29-minute rain delay. He kept the Diamondbacks off the scoreboard during his start and then turned things over to Mike Adams and Joe Nathan, who helped complete the club’s third shutout since Friday.

It didn’t come without a little drama.

Harrison allowed a one-double double to right to Willie Bloomquist in the eighth inning on a ball Harrison thought would go foul. That would be the final batter Harrison faced as Adams was called on to work out of the jam with two right-handed hitters coming to the plate. Adams (1-2) got Aaron Hill to fly out, then struck out Justin Upton to keep the game scoreless.

Harrison, who pitched a complete-game shutout in his last start, wanted to stay in the game after the Bloomquist double. But with the way the staff is pitching, he understood manager Ron Washington’s decision to pull him.

“Their thinking in the dugout, I’m sure, is if a couple of guys get on base there with the way our bullpen throws, bring them in because they’ve done nothing but shut down this year,” said Harrison, who threw 95 pitches. “As a starter you want to go nine every time, but you’re not unfortunately. That’s what you’ve got a bullpen for.”

The eighth-inning move paid off in the bottom of the frame as the Rangers manufactured the game’s lone run. Mike Napoli drew a leadoff walk of Wade Miley and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Craig Gentry, who is 10 for his last 20, then scorched a single to left past Ryan Roberts to score Napoli.

That was it for the offense on a night the Texas batters didn’t want to let the pitching staff down.

“The pitching staff came out and did an unbelievable job,” said Gentry, who has three RBI in the series. “Harry starting it and we needed to get a run across right there. They did a great job of holding them the whole game.”

Nathan wasn’t about to let the offense or the other pitchers down, either. He got the side out in order for his 13th save and has now retired 33 of the last 37 batters he’s faced.

Washington knows his offense – which had just three hits Wednesday – will come around. It’s the pitching that’s continued to be consistent, though, despite having three key members on the disabled list in Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando.

“Everybody on this team is looking for opportunities,” Washington said. “There’s been a lot of guys in that bullpen that have been throwing the ball well, but haven’t been getting a ton of opportunities because the guys in front of them are healthy and getting the job done. We feel good about everyone we have here. Somebody’s going to get the opportunity to step up, and we’re just going to continue to play baseball.”

Early on baseball was being played at a quick pace at Rangers Ballpark. The teams plated four complete innings in 48 minutes because of the pitching of Harrison and Miley. That’s when the delay stopped the game, but didn’t slow down the solid pitching.

Both returned after the rain and kept going. Miley retired the 19 of the first 20 hitters he faced with the lone exception being Brandon Snyder, who singled in the third inning.