Rangers' faith motivates Harrison for Game 7

Rangers' faith motivates Harrison for Game 7

Rangers' faith motivates Harrison for Game 7
ST. LOUIS -- Of all the passengers on the roller coaster that the Rangers rode through the final innings of their 10-9, 11-inning loss to the Cardinals in Thursday's Game 6 of the World Series, Matt Harrison was the one whose head might have been spinning the most.

Harrison was in a unique position. As the Rangers' scheduled starter for Game 7 of the World Series, his attention was divided between rooting on his teammates and preparing himself mentally for Friday night's possible showdown -- which became a reality when David Freese homered off Mark Lowe to lead off St. Louis' half of the 11th.

"Yeah, it is a little weird," Harrison said after the game. "We thought in the ninth inning that we had it wrapped up there. But [the Cardinals have] been fighting and scrapping all Series and so have we. They were just scrappy enough to come out on top tonight."

Tale of the Tape: Game 7
2011 Regular Season
Overall: 30 GS, 14-9, 3.39 ERA, 57 BB, 126 K
Overall: 34 GS, 11-9, 3.45 ERA, 55 BB, 191 K
Key stat: Allowed just 13 HR (fourth fewest among AL pitchers with min. 160 IP)
Key stat: Four CG in regular season (4th in NL); 1 CG in NLDS
2011 Regular Season: N/A
Career: N/A
2011 Regular Season: 17 GS, 4-3, 3.05 ERA
Career: 67 GS, 32-14, 2.58 ERA
Against this opponent
2011: 1 GS, 0-1, 7.35 ERA (Game 3)
Career: 1 GS, 0-1, 7.35 ERA
2011: 2 GS, 1-0, 2.76 ERA (Games 1 and 5)
Career: 13 GS, 3-6, 6.47 ERA
Loves to face: Fanned David Freese and Jon Jay in Game 3
Hates to face: Allen Craig took him deep in Game 3
Loves to face: Yorvit Torrealba, 1-for-8
Hates to face: Mike Napoli, 4-for-8
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Hasn't lost back-to-back starts since June 7 and 12
Why he'll win: 6-0 with a 2.05 ERA in last 10 starts, incl. five playoff outings
Pitcher beware: Allowed five runs (three earned) in just 3 2/3 innings in Game 3
Pitcher beware: Three HRs in two starts against TEX; allowed one in previous six outings
Bottom line: Forget rough Game 3
Bottom line: Another do-or-die start

About a half-hour after Thursday night's epic ended, Harrison sounded as if he had adjusted his focus.

"It's unfortunate that we have another game tomorrow. But I'm ready to go," he said. "I've been waiting for this for a long time. It kind of [stinks], watching them come back twice like that. But that's the way baseball goes. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and giving us a chance to win."

From the outset of the Series, it was apparent that Harrison would start Game 7 if it became necessary. Rangers manager Ron Washington remained steadfast in his commitment to Harrison, even after Derek Holland allowed two hits in 8 1/3 innings in Texas' 4-0 Game 4 victory on Sunday. With Wednesday's postponement of Game 6 due to threatening weather, Washington could have opted to give the Game 7 assignment to Holland, who would be working on his normal four days' rest.

But Washington maintained his implicit faith in Harrison, who finished 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA in the regular season. Asked Wednesday why he didn't switch to the hot hand -- Holland, that is -- Washington replied, "Because Harrison is my Game 7 pitcher. Harrison has been a big part of this team all year. I am not changing the things that I've been doing all year. That's why we are where we are, and that's why I'm saying Harrison."

Said an appreciative Harrison, "That means he has the trust in me to do the job. It means a lot to me to get support like that. ... Showing confidence in me only builds confidence in myself."

Nevertheless, Washington told reporters that the entire Rangers bullpen -- including Holland, who threw 23 pitches in two innings Thursday -- would be available to back up Harrison if necessary.

Harrison, who's 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA in four postseason appearances, allowed five runs (three earned) and six hits while striking out three in 3 2/3 innings in last Saturday's Game 3, in which the Cardinals thrashed Texas 16-7 behind Albert Pujols' three home runs. But Harrison and the Rangers trailed only 1-0 through three innings before Mike Napoli, playing first base, committed a throwing error that generated two runs in a four-run fourth inning.

"I feel like I made some [good] pitches in that game," Harrison said. "Things just didn't go our way that day."

The buildup for this game will be different. After all, it's Game 7.

"I'll just try to treat it like another game," Harrison said. "This will be my fourth start in the playoffs. It's been a great experience so far, but I'd like to go out there and pitch us to the World Series-winning game. I'll try not to worry about it too much tonight and get some rest."

Harrison probably remembered to turn off his cellphone before falling asleep. For the last few days, he has received text messages from people whose phone numbers he doesn't recognize and calls from folks who are complete strangers.

"A lot of people I don't know somehow got my number," Harrison said.

With the World Series on the line, he'll strive to insure that the Cardinals don't follow suit, figuratively speaking.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.