ARLINGTON, Texas —The Texas Rangers were looking from a good outing from anyone in its rotation.
Rookie Matt Harrison provided a huge boost to the Rangers’ staff by throwing eight shutout innings, sending Texas past the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 Saturday night.
The Rangers, who came in with baseball’s worst team ERA at 5.45, had allowed 69 runs over the past seven games. Texas’ starters were even worse in that span with a 15.36 ERA in 25 innings.
“It’s always important to get a well-pitched job from your starter,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We’ve been searching to get one and Matt Harrison stepped up. He showed what his upside can be.”
Harrison (5-2) dominated the AL East-leading Rays in his eighth career start. The lefty gave up just three singles, struck out eight without a walk, and retired the final 18 batters.
Harrison entered the game with a 7.07 ERA and a total of seven strikeouts in 35 2-3 innings. He was pulled after 109 pitches.
All-Star Josh Hamilton preserved the shutout in the sixth with a leaping catch at the wall to take away a home run from Ben Zobrist. Zobrist played in place of B.J. Upton, who was benched for the second time in less than two weeks for failing to hustle.
“To go out and shut them down was an awesome feeling,” Harrison said. “Josh making that spectacular catch at the wall, that could have been the turning point of the game.”
Ian Kinsler homered on the first pitch he saw from Rays starter Edwin Jackson (9-8), who lost for the first time in five starts.
The Rangers had been shut out their last two games. Kinsler quickly ended that scoring slump when he lined Jackson’s first-pitch fastball over the left-field wall for his fourth home run in six games.
That was the only run Jackson allowed in six innings. He struck out the last batter he saw, Chris Davis, on a 97 mph fastball
“It’s hard to say it was a mistake,” Jackson said. “It was the first pitch of the game. He jumped on a good pitch and took advantage.”
The Rays had won three in row. Texas stopped its four-game losing streak.
Eddie Guardado pitched the ninth for his fourth save in four chances. It was Texas’ sixth shutout of the season.
“Sometimes when we pitch well, we don’t score runs and vice versa,” Hamilton said. “We need to find more consistency as a team. Tampa Bay is in first place and it’s nice to take a win out of their category.”
The Rangers, who had lost eight of nine, added two runs in the seventh off reliever J.P. Howell. Michael Young hit an RBI single and Brandon Boggs drew a bases-loaded walk.
Harrison had hardly been a strikeout pitcher in his seven starts as a major leaguer this season. But he had a run where he recorded six in a 10-batter span against the first-place Rays.
The hardest hit ball Harrison allowed was Zobrist’s drive in the second that ended up in Hamilton’s glove.
“The ball started carrying, and I got excited,” Zobrist said. “He quickly took that away. He made it look so easy.”
After Jason Bartlett singled in the third, Tampa Bay did not have a baserunner until Akinori Iwamura walked leading off the ninth. The Rays were blanked for the fifth time this season.