There are many things that can help a team win a baseball game and while there are some games where only a few of those components are necessary to come away with a victory, there are other times where problems will come if any of them are absent.
Unfortunately for the Texas Rangers, Saturday night against the Mariners was one of those nights. They were once again without Josh Hamilton who was still in Texas trying to find out what was causing his issues with blurry vision, but even without Hamilton they had just about everything they needed for a victory that could drop their magic number to seven in the American League West.
The main thing going for the Rangers was Matt Harrison who was brilliant once again. His one-run, complete game performance should have been everything that was needed. The only run allowed by Harrison came off of a solo home run from Michael Saunders in the second inning, however Harrison did get in a bit of trouble in the bottom of the fourth inning when he loaded the bases with nobody out, but then got out Saunders, Alex Liddi and Luis Jimenez to escape without damage. Harrison would end up allowing seven hits and four walks, but mixed in six strikeouts and two of those patented Matt Harrison double plays to lower his ERA on the season to 3.17.
The Rangers had solid defense behind Harrison all night and had runners on base throughout the entire game. The Rangers had eight hits, including the leadoff hitter on base in the first three innings, three extra-base hits and every hitter in the starting lineup having a base hit with the exception of Elvis Andrus and Mike Napoli.
While they had plenty of offense to win a one-run game, it was not enough. What plagued the Rangers all night long was timely hitting. They left men in scoring position in the first and second innings, saw Nelson Cruz thrown out at home plate after David Murphy's double in the fourth and then saw Leonys Martin stranded at second in the eighth.
Without a doubt, the eighth inning was the most disappointing of the night as Mitch Moreland led off the inning with a double . Martin ran for Moreland as Craig Gentry attempted to move him to third with a sacrifice bunt, but was instead walked on four pitches from Blake Beavan who had not walked a batter all night long. That meant the Rangers had men on first and second with no outs and Ian Kinsler at the plate. Kinsler was also trying to move Martin over to third, but had a much different outcome from Gentry. Kinsler attempted to bunt on the first two pitches, but could not get them down and was down 0-2 in the count before striking out. He was followed by Andrus and Michael Young who left Martin and Gentry stranded.
That eighth inning left the Rangers with a perfect opportunity to not only tie the game up, but give them the lead against a team who struggles to score runs as much as any team in the league. Instead of the victory they have now dropped two in a row to the Mariners. Thanks to the A's 14th inning loss to the Yankees, the Rangers still have a four game lead in the West.
This was a game that definitely can leave a bad taste, but on the positive end of things, Matt Harrison was great once again. He went over the 200 inning mark during the game and should have picked up his 18th victory of the year, but instead earned a hard loss. Matt Harrison might not be considered a true ace, but he consistently is showing that he is the workhorse of this staff this season and will be a key fixture to the playoff picture wherever he fits in the rotation.
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.