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SEA@TEX: Harrison earns his 10th win of the season

ARLINGTON -- Matt Harrison, on another hot August night, made it five with 10 wins for the Rangers, the first time this has happened since the first division title in 1996.

Harrison, taking the mound with the temperature at 104 degrees, earned his 10th win of the season by pitching the Rangers to a 9-2 victory over the Mariners at the Ballpark in Arlington on Monday. The victory gives the Rangers five pitchers with at least 10 wins on the season, and there are still 46 games left to play.

"We're very lucky," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're very lucky in the fact that they have all stayed healthy. Those guys have taken the ball every time we've given it to them, pitched some great games and been very resilient. We just hope it continues."

Harrison allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out six over 102 pitches to raise his record to 10-8 with a 3.06 ERA. Alexi Ogando leads the Rangers with 11 victories, while Harrison, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland each have 10.

Rangers starters are now 51-30 on the season with a 3.57 ERA. The 51 wins are the second most by an American League rotation this season (the Yankees lead with 54). The Rangers' club record for wins out of the rotation is 75, set in 1996, and that bunch finished at 75-47 with a winning percentage of .615. The current rotation has a winning percentage of .625, which would be the highest for starters in club history.

"It's pretty awesome, to tell you the truth," catcher Mike Napoli said. "These guys just go out there, battle and execute their pitches ... and give us a chance to win."

The 1996 team was the last to have five pitchers with at least 10 wins each: Ken Hill (16), Bobby Witt (16), Roger Pavlik (15), Darren Oliver (14) and Kevin Gross (11). Gross had nine wins as a starter and two as a reliever, so the 2011 rotation is the first in Rangers history with five starters to earn at least 10 wins.

That is not a technicality, but an important distinction. Gross faltered as the 1996 season went along, and the Rangers sent him to the bullpen. To fortify an already strong rotation, the Rangers decided to acquire John Burkett from the Marlins in August and gave up top pitching prospects Ryan Dempster and Rick Helling in return.

This rotation so far has not given cause for the Rangers to strongly consider such a deal, and they were able to expend their tradeable resources on the bullpen. They all got here by different paths, but one thing the Rangers can point to with pride is all five once made their first Major League start in a Texas uniform.

"Obviously that 1996 rotation was a pretty good rotation," said Oliver, who long ago was converted into a reliever. "The big thing was we stayed healthy; rarely do you have five guys who stay healthy. This rotation is good, really good. They have better stuff than we did. As far as the mental makeup, I'd have to say the old-timers had the edge. But these guys are gaining really fast."

On Monday night, Harrison showed more of the mental toughness that has made him a front-line starter. Nelson Cruz's 25th home run and a Mitch Moreland RBI single helped give Harrison a 2-0 lead in the second, but the Mariners worked him for two runs in the third. Harrison threw 31 pitches in the inning, his heart rate was up and the heat was getting to him.

"It got to me early, but I went into the clubhouse, sat in the air conditioning and got my heart rate down," Harrison said. "After that, I made sure I stayed cool and I got used to the heat."

Harrison stayed around for four more innings and allowed just two more hits. He has now pitched at least six innings in 11 straight starts and 19 of 22 on the season. He is 7-4 with a 2.45 ERA in his past 14 starts.

"He's good," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He's impressive. He's pitched very well against us a couple of times. He really leverages the ball for a left-hander, he really gets on top. He can go get 95 [mph] if he needs to, but he can pitch at 90-91. Breaking ball, changeup, he stands strong on the rubber and he has a lot to like there."

Mariners pitchers did not fare as well in the heat. Starter Charlie Furbush could not make it through the fifth inning, as he and two relievers combined to walk seven in the game. That tied a season high for the Mariners, who entered the game with the second-fewest walks allowed in the AL.

The Rangers also had 15 hits, including three each by Cruz, Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba. Napoli started at catcher, while Torrealba made his fourth start at designated hitter. Washington has been trying to get both in the lineup since Adrian Beltre went on the disabled list on July 23 with a hamstring injury, and his efforts are paying off.

Since the day Beltre went on the DL, Napoli and Torrealba are hitting a combined .421 (40-for-95) with 22 runs scored, six home runs and 18 RBIs.

"We just have to find a way to keep them both out there," Washington said.

One will be behind the plate every night and, as of right now, they will be catching a starting pitcher with at least 10 wins. No other catcher in baseball or in Rangers history can say that.

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