No-hitter eludes Matt Harrison, but 15th win doesn't

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Throw around terms such as ace and debate who is and who isn't. That's baseball.

Matt Harrison is just trying to win games. On Friday, he won his 15th, a career-best, and it's not even Labor Day. He did it by taking a no-hit bid as deep as he ever has, two outs into the seventh inning. One batter after David Murphy made a diving catch, Harrison shook off two signs from catcher Luis Martinez, who was playing just his third game. Harrison didn't want the two-seamer and then he didn't want the cutter.

He wanted the changeup. He got the sign, nodded and delivered. And Minnesota Twins DH Trevor Plouffe deposited it into left field, a solid single that ended the no-hitter but hardly put a damper on another Harrison gem. For a second consecutive start, Harrison charged through eight innings and allowed just two hits.

How impressive is that? Since the start of the 2010 season, Detroit fireballer Justin Verlander is the only other American League pitcher to do it.

Behind Harrison's stingy left arm and Adrian Beltre's en-feugo bat, as he hit for the cycle and collected three RBIs, the Texas Rangers whipped the Twins 8-0 in front of 45,823 fans who stood and roared in approval of Harrison's effort after Plouffe broke up the no-hitter. Harrison allowed one more hit before getting out of the seventh then pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. He finished up the night with two walks, a throwing error, five strikeouts and an ERA that is nearing sub-3.00.

"I felt really good. I didn't have as much on my fastball tonight as last game, but I was definitely keeping the ball down and moving the ball in and out and hitting my spots, and throwing my off-speed for strikes," Harrison said. "I figured I'd work with that and keep them off-balance and before I knew it we were in the seventh inning and I hadn't given up a hit yet. A lot of that credit goes to Luis behind the plate. His game-calling was unbelievable and my defense behind me and that play Murphy made in the seventh right before I gave up the hit, I thought it was meant to be.

"But that's what I get for thinking, I guess."

By that time the entire Rangers Ballpark was thinking it might witness history on two levels -- a no-no and a cycle. To anyone's knowledge, both have never been accomplished by the same team in the same game.

Beltre helped stake Harrison to a 5-0 lead after two innings with a run-scoring triple and double. He added a solo home run in the fifth and hard single to right to complete the second cycle of his career. But, the third baseman was more concerned with protecting the no-hitter, a feat that has eluded Rangers arms since July 24, 1994, when Kenny Rogers pitched a perfect game against the Angels.

"To be honest with you, I was ready the whole game because I don't want anything to go by me, and I was a little nervous for him," Beltre said. "You know they say with a no-hitter is always a great catch? After that (Murphy) catch, I was like, 'He's doing it, he's doing it, no matter what, he's doing it.' And then came that line drive.

"You know I think he's going to have another chance to do it. He had the stuff to do it."

Harrison (15-7) is the team leader in wins. Yu Darvish has 12 while no other starter has more than eight, and Harrison leads all starters with a 3.04 ERA. Ace? Maybe not, but if the playoffs started now, who else would manager Ron Washington tab as his Game 1 starter?

So go ahead and throw around terms, but Washington said he understands what he's seeing from his 27-year-old All-Star on a consistent basis.

"Harry came into spring training and said there's a couple things he wanted to do this year. He wanted to win the Cy Young, wanted to make the All-Star team and win a World Series," Washington said. "I think he learned a lot from last year: learned how to be tough, learned how to stay hungry. He learned how to want it and that's what he's doing. He wants it. And each night he goes out there and he proves it.

"There's nights where he goes out there and he knows he doesn't have his best stuff, but he finds a way to do it. And that is exactly what good pitchers do and he's turning into one of those type of pitchers."