Matt Harrison tries to follow up a terrific season debut this evening when the Texas Rangers open a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Harrison scattered six hits over six scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday to get the win. Dating back to last season Harrison is 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA over his last six regular-season starts.
"I was able to throw my offspeed pitches for strikes early in the game," Harrison said. "It gave them something to swing at besides my fastball. They fouled a lot of pitches off early, but I just kept pounding the strike zone and making them put the ball in play."
The Rangers continued their hot start on Thursday, as Michael Young hit a homer and knocked in four runs, lifting Texas past the Seattle Mariners, 5-3, in the final test of a four-game series. Ian Kinsler went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI for the Rangers, who went 5-2 on a seven-game homestand.
"You always feed off the guys in front of you," said Young. "Kinsler has been doing a great job of getting on base this entire homestand."
Derek Holland (1-0) gave up two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings to pick up the win. He fanned eight while improving to 6-1 lifetime against Seattle in 11 games (seven starts).
Minnesota, meanwhile, also comes in on a roll after taking the final two games of their three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Justin Morneau's two-run homer in the eighth gave the Twins the lead for good in a 10-9 victory.
"I easily could have been frustrated or down on myself or whatever," said Morneau, who left the bases loaded in both the third and sixth innings. "I think that is part of maturing as a baseball player, learning to move past each at bat and realize each one you get to start over."
Joe Mauer also connected for his first homer, a three-run shot in fifth, and finished 3-for-5 to highlight the Twins' 20-hit attack. Josh Willingham added three hits with a solo homer and Denard Span went 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in the victory.
Hoping to deliver the Twins a third straight win tonight will be righty Anthony Swarzak, who was dealt a hard-luck loss his first time out. Swarzak held the Baltimore Orioles to a run and four hits over five innings on Sunday, but the Twins managed just one run in the 3-1 loss that day.
With Jason Marquis set to return to the rotation next week, Swarzak could be pitching for a spot in the rotation tonight, as either he or Liam Hendriks are likely to be bumped out.
"It's always a competition with all the other guys in the league, not just the guys in this clubhouse," Swarzak said. "We're all pulling for each other in this clubhouse but it's always a competition. There are thousands of minor league guys who are fighting for my job and guys in our organization in Double-A and Triple-A fighting for my job. So it's going to be fun. We have some good pitchers in this clubhouse."
This series could also feature the return to Minnesota for Texas closer Joe Nathan, who signed with the Rangers this winter after spending the last eight years with the Twins. Of his 263 career saves, 260 of them came with the Twins.
Nathan, though, is off to a shaky start with Texas, recording two saves as well as two losses and a blown save in four appearances.
Minnesota was 5-3 against the Rangers last season.