Jeff Harris (Photo/AP)
The dream got a little sweeter Thursday afternoon for Jeff Harris, the Mariners' 31-year-old rookie right-hander. An underdog journeyman who toured the globe before joining the Mariners organization last season, Harris earned his first big league victory in Arlington, Texas in Seattle's day game with the Rangers, limiting the American League West foe to one run and four hits over seven innings in an 8-2 win.
J.J. Putz mowed Texas down with a 1-2-3 eighth inning, and Eddie Guardado closed the door in the ninth to give Harris a "W" he won't soon forget. Harris struck out two and allowed a pair of walks on the red-hot afternoon in the heart of Texas.
It was the third career appearance and second start in the majors for Harris, who made his big league debut with Seattle back on Aug. 2 in Detroit, pitching five scoreless innings. Five days later in Chicago, Harris, a University of San Francisco product and Bay Area native, made his first start in a Mariners uniform against the White Sox. He took the hard-luck loss that day, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings of work.
Harris was optioned back to Tacoma for the middle part of August, only to get called back up to start against the Rangers, taking Gil Meche's (on the DL) spot in the rotation.
The task wasn't easy against the Rangers, considered it meant facing one of the most powerful lineups in all of baseball with Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, Hank Blaylock and Alfonso Soriano making up the heart of the order. Making matters worse was the fact that No. 6 hitter, Kevin Mench, entered the game as one of the hottest hitters in the game.
Still, a focused Harris used his breaking ball to limit the Rangers 2-through-6 hitters to .250 (3-12) on the day, and allowed just one hit to any other batter - that being to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in the second inning, which scored Soriano for the Rangers' first run of the game.
Seattle gave Harris (1-1, 1.69 ERA) an early cushion with two runs in the first, getting a two-out solo home run from Raul Ibanez and a run-scoring double from Adrian Beltre that plated Richie Sexson, who had walked, from first base.
Ahead 2-1 in the seventh, Seattle shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt gave the Mariners an insurance run with a single that scored Greg Dobbs.
That's where the score stayed until the ninth inning, when the Mariners broke the game open against reliever Doug Brocail and Justin Thompson, making just his second appearance in his amazing comeback after missing the past six seasons with various arm injuries.
Jamal Strong's pinch-hit, bases-loaded infield single made it 4-1, then Ichiro Suzuki made it an 8-1 game by depositing a hanging first-pitch breaking ball from Thompson into the right field bleachers for a grand slam. It was Ichiro's 13th home run of the season.
Felix Hernandez (2-1, 1.24) is slated to take the mound Friday night against the White Sox in Seattle. Orlando Hernandez (8-6, 4.75 ERA) will start for Chicago.