Harrison sharp, but Rangers stall at the plate

Harrison sharp, but Rangers stall at the plate

Harrison sharp, but Rangers stall at the plate
NEW YORK -- Rangers starter Matt Harrison took a four-hit shutout into the seventh inning on Tuesday night. He also had thrown 99 pitches to that point because of some long early innings, and manager Ron Washington had Alexi Ogando warming up in the bullpen.

"I sent [Harrison] out there batter to batter," manager Ron Washington said in recounting events leading up to seventh-inning home runs by Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira off Ogando that carried the Yankees to a 3-0 victory over the Rangers at Yankee Stadium.

"I felt strong," Harrison said after losing a terrific pitchers' duel to Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. "I didn't feel as strong as I did in the first inning, but as you make pitches, your focus level is definitely higher."

The Yankees certainly thought Harrison was strong.

"He seemed to be getting better," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

"He was pitching lights-out," Swisher said. "I don't know what else to tell you."

"Harrison was matching [Kuroda] pitch for pitch," Teixeira said. "I didn't know what to do against him."

Harrison started off the inning by getting Jayson Nix on a flyout. But Derek Jeter singled to center and that brought up Swisher, a switch-hitter who has shown more power against right-handers than lefties this season. Swisher came into the game with a .504 slugging percentage against right-handers and slugging .376 against left-handers.

But Washington wanted Ogando's power arm on the mound in that situation.

"I wanted to put velocity on Swisher," Washington said. "I felt like we could beat them with Ogando's velocity. We didn't get it done, but I'll take my chances with him in that situation."

Harrison wasn't ready to come out of the game -- he rarely is -- but Washington said Ogando was ready and didn't want the situation to get worse. Washington made the call before he got to the mound.

"It's tough to come out of a game," Harrison said. "You want to be out there as long as possible. In a tied game, you want to finish out the inning, but it was not my decision."

Ogando did bring the heat. He threw six straight fastballs to Swisher between 97 and 99 mph. He got ahead, 0-2, and missed with two fastballs before Swisher fouled off two more. Ogando finally threw a slider and missed, bringing the count full. The eighth pitch was a 98-mph fastball that Swisher hit deep to right-center for a two-run home run.

"We wanted him to mix his pitches," Washington said. "His fastball was pretty good, but I don't care how hard you throw; you've got to show them something else. Swisher saw so many fastballs, he finally timed one. The one he hit was up in his eyes."

Teixeira then turned on a 99-mph fastball and hit it over the right-field wall for a home run that made it 3-0. That was more than enough for Kuroda, who completely baffled the Rangers for nine innings. The Rangers managed just two hits, an infield single by Elvis Andrus in the seventh and a single up the middle by Michael Young in the eighth. It was only the third time the Rangers have been shut out this season and only the second in which they were held to two hits or fewer.

"There were plenty of times this year where we didn't get much going offensively and I was disappointed we didn't do better," outfielder David Murphy said. "This offense can get something going against anybody, but [Kuroda] did a great job tonight and earned every bit of that."

Kuroda, relying mainly on his slider against right-handed hitters and split-finger fastball to lefty hitters, walked two and struck out five. In his career, the right-hander was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in two previous starts against Texas.

"This is a very good lineup that he just shut down," Girardi said. "To not give up a hit until the seventh inning, and to only give up two hits and give us a complete game, it was probably our best pitching performance this year."

Harrison, despite his strong work, still took the loss and is now 2-4 with a 3.40 ERA in seven starts since July 1.

"Obviously, when a pitcher gives you what Harry gave us tonight, you'd like to put up one or two runs and help build his confidence," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "We just didn't do it."

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.