SEATTLE – It took Matt Harrison nearly three dozen pitches just to get the first three outs, only to cruise through the next six innings. Two of Texas' four hits all night came in a two-pitch sequence. Josh Hamilton's biggest contribution wasn't at the plate, but two tremendous run-saving catches in the field.
Maybe Ron Washington is right when he says that Texas can win without relying on entirely on the best offense in the league.
"We got four hits and we made them all count. Sometimes you have to win ball games like that," Washington said. "I feel like we can win ball games any kind of way and tonight took that to win it. It took some good pitching and some good defense."
Elvis Andrus lined a two-strike pitch into the left-center field gap for a two-run triple, Hamilton made two great catches in center field and added an RBI double, and the Rangers snapped Seattle's win streak at four with a 3-1 win over the Mariners on Tuesday night.
While Hamilton continues to scuffle at the plate, his defense in the outfield remains superb. His biggest play came in the first inning when he chased down Casper Wells' two-out bases loaded drive to deep left-center and contorted his body to make the catch on the warning track. He then robbed Alex Liddi of at least a double with a leaping grab crashing into the wall leading off the third.
Andrus' triple in the third came after Seattle starter Hector Noesi (2-5) hung a 1-2 breaking ball and Andrus drove it to the wall in left-center to give the Rangers the lead. Hamilton followed by dumping his double on the chalk of the left-field line.
And basically, that was it for a Rangers offense that came in to Tuesday night having slugged homers in 15 straight games. Two chances were all the Rangers got and they made the most of them.
"When things aren't going the way we want to for sure an inning like (that) can be enough like today," Andrus said.
The four hits were the fewest in a Rangers victory this season and just the third time in the past two seasons the Rangers won with less than five hits according to STATS LLC. Texas was able to get away with relatively meager offensive output thanks to Harrison.
By the end of the first inning, Harrison appeared on his way to a short night, needing 35 pitches just to escape. From there, Harrison (5-3) was nearly unhittable. Harrison retired 20 of 24 batters between the second and seventh innings, giving up hits to Michael Saunders, a pair to Brendan Ryan and watching Liddi reach on an error. Liddi's grounder in the fifth hit off Adrian Beltre's glove and rolled into shallow left field but Ryan was held by third base coach Jeff Datz and the Mariners missed a chance to cut into the Rangers lead when Ichiro Suzuki grounded out to end the inning.
Harrison came out for the eighth but his time was short. Liddi led off the eighth with a sharp single to center and Suzuki placed his second base hit of the night in almost the same spot. Harrison was replaced by Mike Adams, who got Jesus Montero to pop out, then struck out Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager, both on a 3-2 pitches off the outside edge of the plate. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 11 chances.
Harrison struck out six, walked two and gave up seven hits in winning for the second time since April 21.
"I knew that I was just a little bit off and I knew if I got frustrated it would only get worse," Harrison said of his rough first inning. "I was able to get out of the inning and then from then on I backed off a little bit with my fastball and started hitting my spots."
Seattle's chance at a huge first inning was chased down by Hamilton. The Mariners got a two-out RBI single from Smoak to take an early lead and worked nine- and eight-pitch at-bats in the inning off Harrison driving his pitch count up early. But Wells didn't hesitate jumping on Harrison's first pitch and driving it to deep left-center field. Hamilton sprinted to the warning track then leaned back and caught Wells' drive above his head, likely keeping the bases from clearing.
His catch in the third on Liddi's drive was just as good, pulling it in right at the yellow line at the top of the fence. He left some repairs for the Seattle grounds crew when Hamilton's spike ripped a chunk of material off the padded wall.
"I thought it had a chance. It was going to go out but then he made a good play," Liddi said. "It's tough to hit it out to center field."
Notes: The Rangers home run streak was the fourth longest in franchise history. ... Washington said his rotation will remain the same following Scott Feldman's start in Wednesday's series finale. Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish will start the weekend series against Toronto and Harrison will start next Monday against Seattle. The starter next Tuesday remains in question. Feldman is making a spot start after Neftali Feliz was placed on the DL. ... Seattle was going for its first five-game win streak since May 2011.