Matt Harrison's curve neutralizes lefties

SEATTLE -- Matt Harrison knows it's a bit strange to be a left-handed pitcher who struggles against left-handed batters.

"It's very frustrating," Harrison said. "Being a lefty, you're supposed to get lefties out. That's kind of the motto, I guess. I was having trouble throwing fastballs down and away to lefties the past few starts, and today I was able to make that pitch early and the curveball counteracted that pitch. I could beat them with the fastball in late, too."

Lefties were just 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts against Harrison in the Texas Rangers' 3-0 win Sunday despite coming in with a .302 average off him.

As Harrison warmed up for Sunday's start against the Seattle Mariners, he noticed his curveball was sharp. So did catcher Mike Napoli.

"I probably threw more curveballs today than I have in a month," Harrison said. "I felt good early, so I just went with it. It seems like the last three starts they've put a lot of lefties in there and I had to find a way to get them out. I was able to put the curve where I wanted it today and get a lot of swings and misses off it."

Harrison ended up pitching 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. The nine strikeouts were a career-high.

"That was the best I've seen his curve," Napoli said. "We just went with it."

One particular lefty factored in on two key outs for Harrison. With two runners on to start the game, Dustin Ackley, batting .281 coming in, stepped to the plate and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. It was the 30th double play induced by Harrison this season, tying C.J. Wilson for the club record. Then, after Luis Rodriguez doubled to lead off the sixth, Harrison got Ackley on a 3-2 curve to end a 9-pitch at-bat.

Harrison outdueled 2010 Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez in the process. It's the third time the Rangers have beaten Hernandez this season.

"We played a good game against a great pitcher," manager Ron Washington said. "We hung in there with him, we grinded him down. We made him work and that's what you have to do. Harry did his job."

Harrison has talked repeatedly about how not being a part of the postseason roster in 2010 has driven him in 2011. He's certainly making a strong case now. Harrison got his 13th win of the season, becoming the fifth Rangers pitcher this season to reach that plateau. He has quality starts in two of his last three starts and has won his last three outings as well.

"I'm just going to try to finish up strong and do whatever I can to make that postseason roster," Harrison said. "We'll see what happens when it gets to that point. I'm just trying to focus on one game at a time right now."