SEATTLE (AP) – Matt Harrison wasn’t about to be the one to halt Texas’ wave of nearly perfect pitching, or the Rangers near-record win streak.
Harrison allowed just one run in 7 2-3 innings, Mitch Moreland hit a three-run homer and the Rangers won their 11th straight with a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
The Rangers’ win streak is the longest in baseball since Philadelphia’s 11-game streak last September and tied for second-best in team history, trailing only a 14-game streak during the 1991 season.
“This whole streak we’re on right now is really because of what they have done. They’ve been great,” Moreland said of the Rangers’ staff. “When you are pitching like that it’s fun to go out and play behind those guys and be a part of it.”
In the process of running the streak to 11, Harrison (8-7) and the Rangers swept the slumping Mariners and likely ended any thought of Seattle being contenders in the AL West this season. The Mariners have lost nine straight and are now 11 1/2 games back.
It’s also the Rangers’ first four-game sweep of Seattle since 1992. Even the All-Star break thrown into the middle of the win streak couldn’t slow down Texas.
“We were playing well and we expected ourselves to come out and play well,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “The first day of workouts (post break) showed they were ready.”
While Moreland provided the punch, it was the Rangers’ pitching staff that continued to be the story. Texas held Seattle to two runs in 36 innings in the four-game set. Going back to before the All-Star break, Texas pitching has allowed just two runs in its last 47 innings.
But it’s more than just a five-game sample. During this 11-game streak, the Rangers’ collective ERA is 2.09 and the opposing batting average is .194.
For Harrison, Sunday was his second victory of the win streak and lowered his ERA to 2.91, the first time he’s been below 3.00 since late April.
“I think warming up in the bullpen I figure out what is working that day and run with that. Kind of like today I felt good with my sinker in the bullpen today so I went out and threw a lot of those, even if I got behind in the count,” Harrison said. “If it was 2-0, 3-1, I was able to throw that pitch any time I wanted to and keep it down in the zone and make them put it in play.”
Harrison allowed a leadoff walk to Ichiro Suzuki to start the game then proceeded to silence Seattle’s struggling bats. Thanks to a double play after Suzuki’s walk, Harrison faced the minimum into the fifth inning before consecutive singles by Justin Smoak and Greg Halman.
Seattle didn’t score there, but finally got to Harrison in the eighth after Bard doubled off the wall in left and scored on Jack Wilson’s single to center. But Suzuki finished off a 0-for-3 day with a strikeout and that was it for Harrison. Reliever Mark Lowe entered and got Franklin Gutierrez to close the eighth.
Neftali Feliz struck out a pair in the ninth for his 20th save in 24 chances and continued his domination of the Mariners, who are hitless as a team in 33 plate appearances against Feliz.
Seattle rookie Blake Beavan (1-1) minimized the damage all day — except for Moreland’s 12th homer in the second inning — and suffered his first career loss.
Washington said before Sunday’s game that he was dropping Moreland to ninth in the batting order, hoping he’d relax a bit at the plate. Moreland had gone 10 games without driving in a run and was hitless in his previous 14 at-bats before stepping up in the second.
David Murphy started the inning with a single and Mike Napoli walked after a nine-pitch at-bat. Moreland then drove a 2-1 pitch from Beavan out to deep right-center field.
Beavan otherwise kept Seattle close into the seventh inning. The former Rangers prospect was acquired in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Texas last July and was facing his former club for the first time. Beavan escaped a two-out bases loaded jam in the first inning and retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced. He allowed six hits, struck out three and walked two.
“I just tried to focus on hitting the mitt. Those guys, the thing they do best is hit mistakes, hit balls over the plate,” Beavan said. “I just tried to calm down and make a quality pitch and get a groundball.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)