Harrison pitches well as Texas gives up big lead
Blanks D-backs before shaky sixth; Branyan bites Rhodes, Ogando
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Russell Branyan took another step toward winning the D-backs' first-base job. Matt Harrison took another step toward winning a spot in the Rangers' rotation.Branyan delivered the big blows on Wednesday afternoon at Surprise Stadium. The designated hitter clubbed a grand slam off Arthur Rhodes in the top of the seventh inning to give the D-backs the lead and, after Mitch Moreland's RBI single off Mike Hampton in the eighth forged a tie, Branyan hit an RBI single in the ninth off Alexi Ogando for a 9-8 D-backs win. Daniel Hudson, who has been named the D-backs' No. 2 starter, allowed seven runs in the second inning. Only one was earned because of Hudson's throwing error on Ian Kinsler's sacrifice bunt, one of two D-backs errors in the inning. But he still allowed eight hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. Harrison pitched five scoreless innings to begin the afternoon before giving up four runs in the sixth (three earned). Chris Young's two-run double was the big hit. Melvin Mora started the rally by reaching with one out on first baseman Michael Young's error, but Harrison also walked the next two hitters to load the bases.
2010 Spring Training - Texas Rangers
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"The last inning, I wish I could erase that," Harrison said. "The first five innings, I was getting ahead and staying ahead. I just got out of my rhythm and mechanics. I finally got back in the zone, made some good pitches and got out of it."
Overall, though, it was a strong performance for Harrison. He is competing with left-handers Michael Kirkman and Derek Holland for the final two spots in the Rangers' rotation and now has a 3.79 ERA on the spring."I was very happy with the first five innings," Harrison said. "I would like to continue that into the next game."
Harrison left with a 7-4 lead. The D-backs then loaded the bases with one out in the seventh against Rhodes. That brought up Branyan and, in a lefty vs. lefty matchup, he went deep to left-center to put the D-backs ahead.David Murphy had a two-run single in the Rangers' seven-run rally and now has a 10-game hitting streak. Willie Bloomquist was 2-for-3 for the D-backs and is hitting .411 for the spring. Rangers up next: Neftali Feliz will make his fifth appearance and fourth start of the spring when he pitches against the Padres at 8:05 p.m. CT on Thursday in Surprise. Feliz has a 1.93 ERA this spring, while opponents are hitting .222 off him. He is making a strong bid for the Rangers' rotation, but the possibility remains he could end up back in the bullpen. The game will be shown live on MLB.TV and back to Texas on TXA21. The Rangers have a split-squad doubleheader, with Tommy Hunter pitching in the first game at 3:05 p.m. against the Reds in Goodyear, also live on MLB.TV.
D-backs up next: The D-backs return to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Thursday afternoon to take on the A's at 1:10 p.m. MST. Left-hander Joe Saunders will take the ball for the D-backs. It will be a big start for the veteran, who does not have a spot in the rotation locked up yet, according to manager Kirk Gibson.
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.