ARLINGTON -- Matt Harrison's strong outing and some timely insurance runs gave the Rangers a 4-1 win on Thursday and a series split in their four-game set with the Minnesota Twins.The Rangers had not lost three in a row at the Ballpark in Arlington since July 8-11 of last season, and Harrison did his part to ensure that the streak continued. "The most important thing is that we win the game," Harrison said. "I had a couple of innings where I was having to battle and I was executing pitches to get out of the inning without giving up too many runs, and I was able to minimize the damage."
Harrison ran into trouble in both the fifth and sixth innings, but he was able to escape both having given up just one run.In the fifth, Jim Thome led off the inning with a double to left field. Harrison responded by forcing two popouts, and two infield singles loaded the bases, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka's fielder's choice to second ended the threat. "He's staying out of deep counts, getting a lot of ground balls, and had some quick innings early," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He executed pitches when things got a little hairy there. Thome leads off with a double and doesn't score, so that's a good thing." In the next inning, Thome drove home Joe Mauer for the Twins' only run.
Harrison logged six or more innings for the ninth consecutive start."It means that I'm doing my job, and getting us deep in the game," Harrison said. "They aren't having to use the bullpen early in the game. I feel like I just need to keep doing that and keep working hard for the rest of the year." Harrison retired the first eight batters he faced, and was able to sustain that performance for 7 1/3 innings, giving up eight hits and one earned run. "He was tough. He was going in and out," Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer said. "He had a good changeup tonight. I only saw one, but it was pretty nasty. He kept guys off-balance. He threw well, and he's done that the whole season if you look at his numbers." However, when Harrison left with a 2-1 lead and one out in the top of the eighth inning, it was far from certain that he was going to earn his third consecutive win. With a runner on first, Yoshinori Tateyama came in and struck out Cuddyer. With left-handed-hitting Jason Kubel at the plate, Washington brought in Arthur Rhodes, who had given up a two-run home run to Kubel in his last appearance. Rhodes relished the opportunity to face Kubel again with the game hanging in the balance. He got him to fly out to center. "It was great to be in a situation like that, it made me focus more," Rhodes said. "I beared down tonight, and went out there and did my job." With Sunday's non-waiver Trade Deadline looming and the Rangers expected to look into acquiring one or more relievers, Washington insisted that he had confidence in both Rhodes and Tateyama. "I do have confidence in every single one of those guys out there," Washington said. "We're together when we're doing good, and we're together when we're not doing good." In the bottom of the inning, the Rangers scored two runs, their first multi-run inning since the fourth inning of Tuesday's game, to provide a three-run cushion. "It feels nice to get those tack-on runs in the [eighth]," designated hitter Michael Young said. "Offensively we had a couple fundamental breakdowns during the game, but we stayed with it, and we were able to get those two big ones across in the eighth." Josh Hamilton sparked it with a two-out triple. After Young walked, Nelson Cruz drove home Hamilton when Danny Valencia threw wide of first for an error. Mitch Moreland drove home Young with a single to center. With that, it was time for Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. Feliz, who blew a one-run lead on Tuesday, made quick work of the Twins in the ninth. He struck out Thome, got Valencia to pop out and Delmon Young to ground out in earning his 21st save. "He was good," Washington said. "He threw the ball well, threw it over the plate. He used the ball inside on a lot of right-handers. He came in and pounded the strike zone and did what he had to do to get the three outs we needed." Washington had said that he did not like the "fire" with which Feliz had been pitching of late. "He's probably responded because he's a competitor," Washington said. "I don't think I had much to do with it, because I'm not the one out there toeing the rubber trying to get outs. So I think all the credit has to go to Neftali Feliz." With the Angels winning Thursday afternoon in Detroit, the Rangers still hold a two-game lead in the American League West.
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.