It was the little things that made Matt Harrison brilliant on Sunday, September 16th against the Seattle Mariners. He only walked one batter while striking out five. He gave up six hits but induced three double plays, two of which he started himself. His only mistake came towards the end when, beginning to run out of gas, he gave up a home run to sudden Rangers killer Justin Smoak. Ron Washington even allowed him to start the ninth but pulled him with two outs for Koji Uehara. That's when I saw Harrison pleading his case to Washington to let him stay in saying "one more out". That was guts. That was determination.
The Texas Rangers won the game 2-1. Koji came in and struck out the only batter he faced for the final out and his first save since 2010. His fist pump at the end put the final exclamation on a close game and a win that the Rangers desperately needed since the Orioles had trounced the A's 9-4 and put the Rangers division lead back to three games.
Matt Harrison's performance is just another in a great stretch since August for the starting rotation. Well, except for Scott Feldman who was recently demoted back to the bullpen with Martin Perez assuming his job. There's been a lot of discussion lately as to what the Rangers playoff rotation would look like with people either saying that Yu Darvish, Ryan Dempster or Harrison should be the game one starter with the consensus being that Derek Holland should start game four. Now before I give my opinion I want to point out their respective stats. The following are each pitcher's numbers since the beginning of August.
Matt Harrison: 22 ER, 56 H, 17 BB, 39 K, 3.98 ERA
Derek Holland: 22 ER, 43 H, 11 BB, 53 K, 3.89 ERA
Ryan Dempster: 23 ER, 49 H, 16 BB, 52 K, 4.64 ERA
Yu Darvish: 24 ER, 34 H, 23 BB, 67 K, 4.36 ERA
Now looking at those numbers you might be inclined to believe that Derek Holland should start game one. But several factors have to be included. Yu Darvish has suddenly become the pitcher that Texas knew he would become. In his last five starts his ERA is 2.03. And in Ryan Dempster's case if you take away his two horrible starts after coming here from the Cubs you'll find that he is sporting a shiny 1.61 ERA. Another factor is Derek Holland's maturity. I do not believe that he can handle being a number one starter in the playoffs. So who do I go with?
Darvish, Harrison, Dempster and Holland.
Yu Darvish is clearly the best starter on the staff right now. I make Harrison my number two so as to break up the lefties but also for the fact that if there is a seventh game Dempster would get the start with Holland available out of the bullpen. And I would trust Holland in long relief or a spot relief appearance over Scott Feldman any day. I think this is the rotation that gives Texas the best chance to succeed.
But enough of that for now as it's time to focus on wrapping up the division and series still remaining with the Angels, Mariners and A's.
Until next time, I'll see you in the cheap seats!
James Holland is a lifelong fan of baseball and his hometown Texas Rangers. He is also a senior columnist for shutdowninning.com, the founder of clawandantlernation.com and a member of SABR. You can also follow him on Twitter @SDIJamesHolland.