Harrison: Win over Rox 'confidence booster'
DENVER -- There is life after spinal fusion surgery for those willing to fight through a painful and tedious 14-month rehabilitation journey.
Matt Harrison was determined to do just that, and he received his first tangible reward on an emotional night at Coors Field. Harrison pitched six scoreless innings and earned his first win since May 8, 2014, in the Rangers' 9-0 victory over the Rockies on Tuesday night.
"Huge confidence booster," Harrison said in a boisterous clubhouse that was also celebrating Shin-Soo Choo's first cycle. "Today was the best I have felt in a couple of years. Today was more about a confidence booster that showed I can still pitch here."
Harrison underwent back surgery on June 3, 2014, and allowed six runs in four innings in his first start back on July 8 against the D-backs. Against the Rockies, he allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out two.
"I think I have been needing to do something like this for awhile," Harrison said. "It has been so long, I have been putting the [work] in. … I could tell the adjustments in the bullpen helped, getting downhill more. My sinker sank a lot more and my changeup was much better. For the most part, I was pretty consistent moving the ball in and out."
Harrison threw 91 pitches, with his fastball creeping up to 89-91 mph. The Rangers delivered some superb defense behind him, including two of the four double plays turned on the night and a diving stop by Prince Fielder at first base.
This was Harrison's third career start against the Rockies, and he has won all three without allowing an earned run. This was his first start at Coors Field.
"Every time we got something going, he got a ground ball, made a pitch," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "We just couldn't get anything going. It was one of those games. We fell behind, and he made some pitches when he needed to."
The critical inning for Harrison was the fifth. He had a 6-0 lead and retired the first two hitters of the inning. But that brought up the top of the Rockies' order, and Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu both reached on singles. That put runners on the corners for Tulowitzki.
Harrison fell behind, 3-0, came back with two strikes and then got Tulowitzki to hit a fly ball to shallow right. Choo made a sliding catch to end the inning.
Harrison also was productive at the plate even though manager Jeff Banister wasn't eager to see him swing the bat or run the bases. He dropped a sacrifice bunt in the Rangers' three-run second inning and also reached on a fifth-inning error by pitcher Yohan Flande that scored a run.
"It was an incredible night for Matt Harrison," Banister said. "Once we got the lead, you could see him settle in and get the job done. I get excited when you see those kinds of performances and a moment in time in a player's career. Just what he has been through and what he has had to overcome. You cherish every moment."