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MIN@TEX: Harrison dominates Twins with a two-hit gem

ARLINGTON -- With one out in the seventh, Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison got Ryan Doumit to hit a soft line drive to left field and suddenly a history-making night hung in the air. As a crowd of 45,823 looked on, leftfielder David Murphy charged in and made a superb diving catch.

"I knew I was close to a no-hitter and when Murph made that catch, I thought it was going to happen," Harrison said. "That goes to show you not to think."

Maybe Murphy's catch caused Harrison to let down his guard just enough because four pitches later, the no-hitter was over. Trevor Plouffe brought it to an end by lining a single through the left side, a ball that Murphy had to pick up off the ground.

"I was thinking it shouldn't end like that," Murphy said.

Harrison had to settle for a standing ovation and his 15th win of the season, as the Rangers went on to an 8-0 victory over the Twins at the Ballpark in Arlington on Friday night.

Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre ended up being the one to make a little history by hitting for the cycle for the second time in his career. Beltre, who is 13-for-22 with five home runs in five games on this homestand, became the sixth player to hit for the cycle in club history.

"What more could you ask for in one night ... a near no-hitter and a cycle," Murphy said. "An incredible pitching feat and an incredible offensive feat, all in one night by the same team."

The Rangers have now won seven of their last nine games and maintain a six-game lead over the Athletics in the American League West with 37 left to play. They are now 23 games over .500 for the first time this season, and hold the best record in the American League.

Harrison's bid for a no-hitter was the longest such effort by a Rangers pitcher since Rich Harden pitched 6 2/3 no-hit innings on Aug. 23, 2010, also against the Twins. Harden left that game with the no-hitter intact. Harrison, a reliever at that point in his career, and Darren O'Day took the no-hitter into the ninth before Neftali Feliz gave up a one-out single to Joe Mauer.

Friday's drama didn't last that late, but it was still an impressive performance by Harrison. He ended up allowing two hits and two walks while striking out five over eight innings.

"I felt really good," Harrison said. "I definitely didn't feel in command as much of my fastball as my last start, but I was able to keep it down in the strike zone. My offspeed stuff was some of the best I've had all year, and I was able to put them away when I had them down two strikes."

Harrison also allowed just two hits over eight innings in his previous start against the Blue Jays on Sunday. He is only the second Rangers pitcher in club history to pitch at least eight innings in two consecutive games and allow two hits or less. Jim Bibby pitched a two-hitter and a no-hitter in back-to-back starts on July 26 and 30, 1973.

"I just have to keep building on this," Harrison said. "It took me a couple of innings to get locked in, but after the third I was on a roll. I just wanted to stay aggressive, keep making pitches and get us into the dugout."

Harrison departed Friday's game after eight innings, having thrown 118 pitches.

"I knew he had a no-hitter going so I just tried to stay out of his way," Washington said. "After it was all over, he was mentally drained. Physically he was fine, but he was mentally beat, standing out there knowing you had to keep making pitches because of the fact that he was carrying a no-hitter.

"You get deep in the game like that, you want it. It didn't happen, but he was locked in."

Harrison is now 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA in five starts this month. He was 1-2 with a 6.07 ERA in August last year and the Rangers altered their rotation down the stretch in an attempt to re-fuel him. There are no such concerns right now.

"He wants it, and each night he goes out and proves it," Washington said. "Even on nights he doesn't have his best stuff, he finds a way to do it. That's what good pitchers do, and he's doing that.

"He was a pitcher in complete control from the first pitch on. His first four or five pitches were strikes, and he commanded the strike zone all night. He got a lot of quick outs. He certainly had a good fastball, and moved it around in the zone. He was locked in."

Beltre's run-scoring RBI triple gave Harrison a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Twins starter Samuel Deduno, and the Rangers added five more in the second. Beltre had a double in that rally and added a home run in the fifth. He finished up with a single in the seventh to give him the cycle.

Turns out Harrison only needed the first inning triple to raise his record to 15-7 with a 3.04 ERA.

"He was throwing 93-94 mph, in and out," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It didn't look like he had to throw many breaking balls. A few changeups, it looked like. A couple breaking balls, but he was pounding his fastball and working ahead in the count. He had us on the defensive side pretty much all night."

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