Dirty Harri

19 06 2012

During a time when the Rangers’ pitching is in flux due to ceaseless injuries, one player has stabilized his worth to the team.

The Texas Rangers defeated the San Diego Padres 2-1 on Monday night during interleague play. Even though they could only put together five hits, a David Murphy two-run single provided the pitchers with just enough support to rack up their fourth consecutive victory.

This subpar hitting from the best hitting team in the league only could be made possible for a win by means of Matt Harrison (and another*).

 

Last year’s World Series was not nice to Matthew Reid Harrison. In fact, it bullied him off the mound. Twice. After a Game 3 performance in which he gave up six hits and five runs in only 3.2 innings, the 26-year-old followed that up in a crucial Game 7 with five hits and three runs in four innings. Going into the offseason, Harrison’s play looked to have a bigger question mark than his goatee.

This season has shown a goatee-trimmed Matt Harrison and a confident Matt Harrison. Other than Colby Lewis, whose nickname is workhorse for a reason, no other Ranger has put in more innings pitched than the 4-year pro. He has made it through five innings (the usual amount of innings required for a starter to qualify for a win) every game except for May 2 when he struggled through 3.1 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The past month has showcased an even sharper Matt Harrison, one that can stand tall right alongside some of the best in the league. Monday not only marked Harrison winning his fifth straight decision and fifth win in six starts but also tied him with New York Yankees’ pitchers C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova for most AL wins (9 wins). During this hot streak, Harrison has dropped his ERA from 5.21 to 3.41 while making it through at least seven innings four times and eight innings two times. He might not be a strikeout machine like Yu Darvish or Lewis, but he sure does his job – he always gives his team a chance to win the game.

Harri’s ability to consistently throw first-pitch strikes – 93 of 145 batters have faced this hole during his recent superior outings – has set him up perfectly and prevented men at the plate from having the ability to wait for the pitch they want. He often follows this up with either a solid sinker or cutter that hits the target. Since this organization decided to trade with the Atlanta Braves in 2008 up to this point, the Rangers have never seen their lefty pitcher like this.

This is the Matt Harrison we should now expect. Proclaiming him an elite MLB pitcher should start to become the norm as he continues to pitch exactly how he wants to night in and night out. Yes, other pitchers on this team are better at exciting the crowd, filling the seats or scaring the batter. However, if the Rangers find a way to buy into “three times the charm” this season and make it to the World Series, there will be a new and improved Matt Harrison for all to see.

 

 

*Joe Nathan has arrived and is here to stay. As the Rangers closer picked up his 14th save of the season, he achieved a provisional career-defining milestone. Nathan now holds the highest save percentage in MLB history (200 or more saves) as he passes Mariano Rivera, the best closer ever. Even though the Texas native had many critics early on questioning if his best days had passed, Nathan has finally settled down (his ERA has dropped from 9.00 on April 11 to 1.63) and looks to be one of the premiere closers in the game. His 33 strikeouts and 2 walks on the season speak for themselves. When Nolan Ryan brought in this pitcher that wanted to play in Arlington, this is exactly the type of productivity he expected. As stated earlier, if the Rangers make it to the World Series this year, Nathan will be a key, veteran component toward prohibiting this franchise from becoming the next Buffalo Bills.

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