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TEX@SEA: Harrison fans nine en route to the victory

SEATTLE -- Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez is a tremendous pitcher, but the Rangers have figured out a way to beat him: respond with equally or more tremendous pitching of their own.

That's worked in all three games against Hernandez this season, including Sunday afternoon. Matt Harrison, with a career-high nine strikeouts, delivered 6 2/3 scoreless innings and the Rangers were able to maintain a 4 1/2-game lead in the American League West with a 3-0 victory at Safeco Field.

The Rangers' magic number is six with nine games to play. They are off on Monday before opening a three-game series with the Athletics on Tuesday in Oakland.

"We feel good ... we're playing our kind of baseball," infielder Michael Young said. "The stretch run experience last year was valuable. We haven't blinked. There is baseball to be played and we're playing our game. We just want to keep it up."

"We still have to take care of business," catcher Mike Napoli said. "We need to win games. This was a good series here, we won the series, now we've got to go to Oakland and win another series."

They took two of three from the Mariners with their victory over Hernandez on Sunday. Hernandez is now 0-3 despite a 3.74 ERA in three starts against the Rangers this season because his team has scored just four runs in 27 innings over those three games. He is also 2-6 with a 4.28 ERA over his last eight starts against the Rangers while getting 1.98 runs of support per nine innings.

"We pitched well in those games, that's the key," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "If we can hold the other team down, it gives our offense a chance to get into the game and scratch out some runs. Harry did an unbelievable job and the bullpen shut it down. That's how you draw it up."

Adrian Beltre delivered the big hit with a two-run home run in the fourth inning off Hernandez. The Rangers added another run in the sixth on a single by Kinsler and a double by Elvis Andrus, who has hit safely in 12 straight games.

"They're dangerous," Hernandez said. "If you throw quality pitches, you can get them out. If you make a mistake, you're going to pay. That's what happened with Belly. I made a mistake and he hit the ball out of the ballpark."

Harrison, who is in line to be the Rangers' No. 3 starter in the playoffs, has faced Hernandez four times in his career. He has won three of those meetings while the fourth game was lost early last season when Frank Francisco blew a ninth-inning save.

"He was the Cy Young winner last year," Harrison said. "He's a tough guy, but we able to score a couple of runs. That was a big home run by Beltre. Going up against a guy like that who is tough you have to make good pitches to keep your team in the game. That was a big win for us coming up against him."

Harrison, 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his last three starts, allowed six hits and two walks while striking out nine, raising his record to 13-9 with a 3.42 ERA. All five Rangers starters have at least 13 wins, the first time that has happened in club history.

The last time an AL pitching staff had five pitchers with at least 13 wins was in 1977 when both the Yankees and the Orioles did so. The Cardinals had five with at least 13 wins in 2005. The shutout was the Rangers' 19th of the season, extending their own club record.

The big pitch for Harrison was the curveball, which he used against a lineup that included four left-handed hitters. Left-handers were hitting .302 against him coming into the game, but they were 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts on Sunday.

"He was awesome," Napoli said. "He had a good curveball and he used it. He mixed it in and out and had a good sinker. He got some ground balls when he needed it."

Harrison took a four-hit shutout into the seventh, but Wily Mo Pena reached on a single. Harrison struck out Trayvon Robinson, walked Alex Liddi, struck out Michael Saunders for the third time and then allowed an infield single to Ichiro Suzuki.

That brought up Luis Rodriguez, a switch-hitter, who was 2-for-2 with a walk against Harrison from the right side. Manager Ron Washington wanted to turn him around, even though he has better numbers from the left side, so he brought in right-hander Koji Uehara.

"We felt Uehara's [split-fingered fastball] would neutralize him," Washington said.

That's what happened. Uehara mixed the split with the fastball and struck out Rodriguez to end the inning.

"All I have is a fastball and a split and I was able to mix it up," Uehara said.

Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz did the rest, retiring the side in order in the eighth and ninth. In two wins on Saturday and Sunday, Rangers relievers retired 17 hitters, including 11 on strikeouts.

They had tremendous pitching and that beat a tremendous pitcher. Comments