I have long said that the biggest challenge for the 2012 Texas Rangers would be getting back to the postseason. Technically they have accomplished that, but without a division title the road to the World Series is a much more difficult task. It can be very difficult for a club that has one goal, which in this case is to win the World Series, to get up for games all along the way, but that is what they must do. They must find a way to compete, day in and day out for 162 games. It would seem that as October came closer that they would be rising to more of the challenge, but so far that has not been the case. This is a club that is sputtering into the postseason, but what they set out to accomplish is just now beginning.
Throughout much of this season there has been the debate of whether Matt Harrison is the "ace" of this club or if he is even an "ace" period. I would fall into that category that does not consider Harrison an ace. I do not feel he has "ace" stuff, but that does not mean that overtime he couldn't still turn out to be one. At the same time, I do believe he has been the Rangers best and most consistent pitcher all season long. He has constantly proven people wrong and risen to the challenge. While he has struggled a bit as of late and looked like a bit of a rest was needed after his last start, he will not get that opportunity.
Harrison will be on the mound tonight in Oakland with the Rangers' magic number still sitting at two. The lead is down to one game and he is the man on the hill. While I would venture to argue that Yu Darvish is the man that you would want on the mound in this situation, Harrison has earned this opportunity and his model of consistency causes me to want him on the hill tonight.
Whenever I think about Matt Harrison's journey as a starting pitcher, my mind always takes me back to that early start last may against the Yankees at home. Harrison was struggling early, made a throwing error and was looking like he would not make it out of the second inning for the second straight start. However, something happened during that second inning and in my opinion Harrison has never looked back. He has had poor outings, but from that day he has been a consistent force in the Rangers' rotation. He took a giant leap forth in his ability to grind out starts that day and that is the type of guy I want on the mound tonight.
Harrison may not have the best stuff in the world and he might be a bit tired as we head into October, but I don't think his competitiveness is missing one bit. He has constantly proven his critics wrong to the point that he enters tonights game with an 18-10 record, 3.26 ERA and 207.1 innings pitched. He has taken over for Colby Lewis as the workhorse of the staff and maybe taken it up a notch. It would be nice if he could also take over for Lewis in the realm of big game starters.
The Rangers desperately need a victory and Matt Harrison can bring them it. He might not get quite the rest that one would have hoped for him, but at this point it doesn't matter. Rangers' fans are getting to truly experience a pennant chase and while it may not have been the ideal scenario, exciting baseball has arrived about a week earlier than expected.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
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- Matt Harrison