SAN FRANCISCO -- The Rangers finally won a game at AT&T Park. But pitching like this will win in any ballpark.
Matt Harrison, rising to the top of the American League in wins, was at his best Friday night, pitching the Rangers' first complete-game shutout of the season in a 5-0 victory over the Giants. It was Harrison's third shutout of his career but his first since May 8, 2009.
"He had a great night," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He stayed ahead of hitters all night, pounded the strike zone and the defense was outstanding. They were picking the ball up all night."
Harrison, relying on a particularly effective sinker, allowed five singles, did not walk a batter and struck out four. Three of the five hits were infield singles. He recorded 18 of 27 outs on ground balls with the help of a couple of diving stops by shortstop Elvis Andrus and third baseman Adrian Beltre.
"Playing defense is always fun when he pitches," Andrus said. "He throws a ton of ground balls and always keeps you active. He did a terrific job."
Harrison is now 8-3 with a 3.87 ERA on the season, tying him with Tampa Bay's David Price for the most victories by a pitcher in the AL.
"Wins are great; as a starter you want to get as many as you can," Harrison said. "When you get them, they're special, but the big thing is we won. I just wanted to get us deep in the game."
He went the distance for the first time this season. That has been bothering him lately, not being able to finish off what he started and getting pulled in the late innings. Washington was going to go with Joe Nathan in the ninth but Craig Gentry's RBI single in the top of the inning gave the Rangers a five-run lead. With the Giants "beyond grand-slam range," Washington decided to let Harrison finish.
"It felt good," Harrison said. "A lot of games I've run into trouble in the sixth and seventh innings, bad walks, and it's knocked me out of the game. Tonight I was able to pitch through it.
"That's the best stuff I've had this year, considering throughout the game everything felt right. My fastball was down, my sinker was moving and my changeup was really good. I can't say enough about the job [catcher] Yorvit Torrealba did. We were on the same page all night and the defense was outstanding. It was unbelievable how great they were behind me."
The Giants had only one baserunner reach second base, and he didn't stay there long. Barry Zito was on first with two outs in the third when Gregor Blanco hit a grounder up the middle. Andrus snagged it behind second base and tried to flip it out of his glove to Ian Kinsler covering the bag. The throw was short but Zito ran past second and was tagged out by Kinsler.
"That was a break right there," Washington said. "But I still feel if Zito didn't overslide, Harrison would have made the pitches he needed to make. He was locked in tonight."
"I think everybody was waiting for him to have the ball up, but he didn't," Blanco said. "He kept the ball down, low. He was throwing that sinker inside, and he didn't throw one up. He kept it down and in, and then the slider away. He did a great job. Sometimes you have to give credit to the pitcher, and I thought he did a great job today."
The Rangers had lost all nine regular-season games and two World Series games at AT&T Park since it opened in 2000. Their last victory in San Francisco was on June 26, 1998, when Darren Oliver beat Orel Hershiser.
"The only thing that mattered was tonight," Washington said. "We're just trying to stay focused and win ballgames. If you play good baseball, you can win anywhere. We played good baseball tonight."
Gentry had a big night, leading the Rangers with a career-high five hits. But the big hit was in the first inning. Kinsler put the Rangers ahead on the second pitch of the game with a home run off Zito. It was the second time this season Kinsler had led off a game with a home run and the 22nd of his career, extending his own club record.
"Kinsler getting that leadoff home run really set the tone for us," Gentry said.
The Rangers made it 2-0 in the fourth when Nelson Cruz led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by Gentry. Josh Hamilton added his 22nd home run of the season in the fourth.
Gentry led off the sixth with a single, was bunted to second by Harrison and came home on Kinsler's single to right. Genry's RBI single in the ninth made it 5-0.
Harrison had two sacrifice hits in the game, the fourth time that's been done by a Rangers pitcher in Interleague Play. But he struck out fouling off three bunt attempts in the eighth against Giants reliever Shane Loux.
"He was throwing a nasty sinker," said Harrison, who was the first Rangers pitcher to ever have five plate appearances in a game. "I thought I was right on the pitch and it was really moving."
The Giants must know how he felt.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.