KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 4: Matt Harrison #54 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium on September 4, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Matt Harrison has been the definition of a stopper on a big-league pitching staff for the Texas Rangers.
He's been the most consistent starting pitcher the Rangers have had this year, even if he's been passed up over the past month and a half by Yu Darvish in terms of effectiveness. Though Darvish will likely start Game 1 of a postseason series (if the Rangers get there), Harrison could easily make a case that role belongs to him.
He'll be going for his 19th win of the season tonight in Oakland and has a chance to clinch the AL West for the Texas Rangers a night after they had to watch the Athletics celebrate clinching a postseason berth. All the Rangers need is one win in the next two games, and they'll be the AL West champs for the third straight year — something this franchise has never accomplished. And even with Darvish's recent performance, there's no one the Rangers would rather have on the mound tonight than Harrison.
Harrison, who is 18-10 with a 3.26 ERA, started Game 7 of the World Series last October. He didn't get the result he wanted that night, obviously, but the experience alone has obviously helped him become a better pitcher this year and should help him tonight in what arguably could be one of the biggest starts of his career at a time the Rangers need him most.
They need him to stop the bleeding. To stop the funk the club is in, losing five of its last seven games. To step up and bring home the division crown while staying in the running for homefield advantage with the Yankees, who are now tied with the Rangers with two games left against the horrid Red Sox.
And Harrison, who has four complete games this year and has gone at least eight innings of two of his last three starts, doesn't want to just get the win. He wants to be out there when the game ends, and maybe he can do a little celebrating himself.
"It's unfortunate that we didn't do it [Monday], but I've been preparing myself to start no matter what," Harrison told ESPN Dallas. "I'm looking forward to it. It's a chance to clinch the division and I want to be on the mound."