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04/27/09 11:30 PM ET
Young guns help Rangers take finale
Harrison struggles, then settles down, against O's
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- One hour into Monday's game at Camden Yards, Matt Harrison's ERA was hovering at 10.26, David Murphy's batting average was sitting at .037 and Taylor Teagarden was at .117.
Those are the kind of numbers that get young players free plane tickets to Oklahoma City rather than free gift certificates from being on the "Star of the Game" show.
Then suddenly, about two hours into the game, all three were worthy candidates for a postgame spotlight. Harrison was looking like a left-handed Zack Greinke and Teagarden and Murphy were delivering the big hits that gave the Rangers a 6-4 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards.
The Rangers trailed, 4-0, after two innings, but they were able to rally for a win that left them 4-3 on the road trip. They took three out of four from the Orioles, which included two come-from-behind victories, and return home to play the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"A good road trip," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "A real good road trip, especially winning three here. We've got a good team; we should expect to win every series. I know that's not possible but this is the way you have to play to get into the playoffs. I'd love to be Boston and win 11 in a row, but I'll take about six series in a row."
The Rangers looked early on like they were going to be splitting this four-game series and heading back with a losing record on the road trip. Harrison allowed seven of the first 10 batters he faced to reach base and found himself down four runs with one out and one on in the second.
That's when the whole night turned around. Harrison retired the next two hitters, including one on a high pop to shallow right-center that Murphy dropped and was still able to get a force at second.
From then on, Harrison was practically untouchable. The final two outs of the second were the first two of 16 straight hitters retired by Harrison. He allowed a two-out single to Robert Andino in the seventh, but got Brian Roberts to fly out to right to end the inning. By that time the Rangers were sitting on a 6-4 lead.
"The night definitely belonged to Matt Harrison," manager Ron Washington said. "We know he is capable of doing that, maybe tonight will turn things around. He was outstanding."
Harrison credited some between-start adjustments, including speeding up his tempo and delivery.
"I just tried to change the tempo of my delivery and attack hitters," Harrison said. "The first couple of innings I was up in the zone and wasn't finding my release point. I slowed it down just a little and started getting the ball down in the strike zone. I just got into a groove and kept going with it."
Harrison was also smart enough to know that maybe it was time to get his act together. Scott Feldman pitched well in a spot start on Saturday, Kris Benson could come off the disabled list sometime soon and Derek Holland is sitting out there in the bullpen.
"I knew I had to have a good outing," Harrison said. "Other guys have been getting the job done. After three rough starts, this one was big. I felt my back was to the wall. I had to put the trust back into these guys and show them I can get the job done."
He did and the Rangers were able to rally. They got some big hits from both Murphy and Teagarden, two other guys who might have had that same back-to-the-wall feeling.
Murphy, after going hitless in his first two at-bats, had a two-out single in the fifth to set up a two-run home run by Michael Young. That made it 4-3.
Teagarden then tied it in the sixth on an RBI single off of reliever Matt Albers and Murphy gave the Rangers the lead later in the inning with a two-out bases-loaded single.
"I needed it and the team needed it," Teagarden said. "It's just nice to come into a situation like that where the team needs a two-out knock and it's nice to be a part of it."
Teagarden, who had two hits on the night, admitted he had some thoughts about having to go back to the Minors after going 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts to start the season
"There are always thoughts about that when you're young and struggling," Teagarden said. "I don't think anybody lost faith in me, but this is all new to me not playing every day. I'm trying to manage it the best I can. ... I've been able to take a lot of the down time to find my swing and tonight was one of those nights where I felt comfortable at the plate."
Murphy, who was hitless on the season until Sunday's home run, wasn't too worried about going to the Minors and the Rangers made it clear that wasn't being considered. But there is certainly a sense of relief that the hits may be starting to come again.
"I obviously know I have to perform," Murphy said. "As far as getting sent to the Minors, I wasn't worried about that. I know they have confidence in me, but you can only struggle for so long."
Monday night was a good time to change directions.