ARLINGTON, Texas — A rain delay of more than two hours at Rangers Ballpark could only delay the inevitable for the Seattle Mariners.
Texas All-Star Matt Harrison is their kryptonite and he showed that again Sunday in what was one of the biggest games of the year for the Rangers.
Harrison fell one out shy of a complete game but did deliver the Rangers a 2-1 victory over in the Mariners in front of the 34th sellout at the ballpark.
Harrison, who became the first Texas 17-game winner since 2009, delivered his gem the same day Oakland lost to Baltimore, giving the Rangers a three-game lead in the American League West with 16 remaining. His start was just what the Rangers needed as they head on the road for a six-game series beginning in Los Angeles Tuesday.
Big-game experience is nothing new for Harrison, who was the Game 7 starter in the World Series last year. Delivering in the situations is huge, and that’s what Harrison did.
Working without much offensive help, Harrison allowed six hits, struck out five and walked just one before exiting with runners on the corners and two outs. Koji Uehara, who was on for an unavailable Joe Nathan, struck out Michael Saunders for his first save since 2010.
Uehara finished the game, but Sunday was all about Harrison.
“I knew we’ve got to keep winning ballgames and I knew they (the A’s) were right on our heels,” said Harrison. “I just wanted to go out there and stay focused and try to put up as many zeroes as I could. It was kind of tough pitching with (Blake) Beavan today. He was right there with me the whole way and I just tried to maintain that lead we had.”
The lead the Rangers gave Harrison came courtesy of Adrian Beltre’s 33rd homer of the season in the fourth and an RBI double from Mitch Moreland in the fifth. That was enough for Harrison, who helped his own cause by getting the Mariners to hit into three double plays.
He started two of them — one coming in the fourth and the other in the seventh. He didn’t allow the Mariners to get a runner in scoring position until Justin Smoak homered to open the eighth inning.
That homer hampered Harrison’s shot at a fourth complete game but he still went out for the ninth with his pitch count at 101. He allowed a one-out walk to Franklin Gutierrez and a two-out single to Jesus Montero when he was one strike from ending the game. Instead Texas manager Ron Washington pulled him at 119 pitches (80 strikes) for Uehara.
Harrison’s strong outing Sunday followed his previous start, which was pushed back a couple of days to give him extra rest. He looked fresh Sunday despite a rain delay of 2 hours, 20 minutes. The delay was almost as long as the game, when lasted just 2:20.
“He was outstanding,” Washington said. “He had a good breaking ball, good changeup. He even had some quickness on the mound. So everything we needed out of him today, he gave to us. That will put to rest that he’s fatigued.”
Uehara’s save made Harrison just the fourth pitcher with at least 17 victories in the AL and he’s just the 17th pitcher to ever reach that mark with the Rangers. He’s also the first left-hander to win 17 games since Kenny Rogers did it in 1995.
“It was great,” Texas catcher Mike Napoli said of Harrison’s start. “He got ahead of hitters. He got guys out early in the count. He pitched well. I’m glad we got two runs to support him a little bit. Overall I thought everything was pretty good. He had a good changeup. He mixed in a couple of curveballs and backdoor sliders. For the most part he was throwing strikes and missing barrels.”