Matt Harrison threw a no-hitter while Neftali Feliz turned in yet another gem for Clinton on Sunday…
Harrison tosses no-hitter
Harrison follows A.J. Murray, Steve Karsay, and Scott Feldman, who combined to pitch a perfect game three seasons ago. The 22-year-old becomes the first Frisco hurler to throw a complete game no-hitter.
"It was a great experience," said Harrison after the game. "After I got that final out, everybody was coming out there to congratulate me. It was a feeling you rarely feel. It was awesome."
Because the game was part of a doubleheader, it was scheduled for only seven innings. That turned out to be a good thing for Harrison, who needed 120 pitches – including six walks and five strikeouts – to complete the feat. Frisco pitching coach Terry Clark says that leaving him in was a tough decision.
"You get to a point where you have to look out for the safety of the kid," Clark said. "We're allowed to go, in a case like that, 10 pitches over. He was right at the borderline. If he gave up a hit any time during the sixth or seventh inning, he was out of the game. I think the sixth inning was a big inning. He threw only seven or eight pitches and I think that saved him because I was not going to let him go 130 pitches. No way."
Harrison got into trouble with some shaky control, leading to six walks in the seven innings. Although Harrison was obviously pleased with his accomplishment, he wasn't totally satisfied with his performance.
"I was kind of mad about the walks today," Harrison replied, "but I made some really good pitches when I had to. I had Max [Ramirez] behind the plate calling a great game; I didn't have to shake him off but a couple of times. He was right there with me the whole game."
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Harrison's no-hitter was the fact that he only had two of his pitches working. With his usually strong changeup and curveball not up to par, Harrison was forced to rely on his slider, a relatively new pitch of his.
"I threw a lot of sliders today because that was basically the only offspeed pitch I could throw for strikes," he said. "I couldn't throw my changeup for strikes – I threw like two of 15 for strikes. I threw a couple of curveballs just to show them, but I was using the slider a lot to get people out."
Having traditionally struggled against his fellow lefties, Harrison began throwing a slider last season to help combat the issue. While the slider has been successful, Harrison has used the pitch almost exclusively against left-handed batters. But pitching coach Terry Clark says they have worked on getting him to throw it to all hitters.
"In spring training, we wanted him to throw a hard slider in on the righties because he loves to throw fastballs in," explained Clark. "Once he starts throwing the slider in there, they start swinging at it because they think it's a fastball and then all of a sudden it breaks out of the zone. That's what he got most of his strikeouts on. He's starting to get better and better at it."
When Harrison came off the disabled list on May 8, he faced a Corpus Christi lineup with no left-handed hitters. On Sunday afternoon, the Missions had only one lefty in their lineup. Harrison believes the righty-heavy lineups have actually forced him to utilize his slider against right-handers.
"I keep using it in the game against righties and I'm able to get righties out with it now," said the former Braves prospect. "They had only one lefty today. I think I walked him twice, but I got him out the third time with a fastball. I didn't really throw any sliders to him. I was just using it on righties because I was able to get it in on their hands and keep them on their back foot."
Sunday's start was Harrison's third outing since returning from a DL trip caused by shoulder tightness. During his first start back on May 8, Harrison's fastball reached up to 94 mph multiple times, but it dropped into the 88-90 range as his arm began to tighten up in the fourth and fifth innings.
There was no such sign of tightness during the no-hitter, as Harrison worked in the 90-92 mph range with his fastball throughout the game, occasionally touching 93 or 94. The North Carolina native did not feel any tightness in his shoulder on Sunday.
"I had no tightness," said Harrison. "My arm feels great. I think that rest on the DL helped me a lot. I've come back and I feel great. I have been ready to go and I've had no problems since."
With the pressure of a no-hitter looming, Harrison says he did experience some soreness after dialing it up a notch in the game's later innings.
"[My arm] is just a little sore because I was putting a little extra on the ball those last couple of innings," he said. "I wanted to make sure I was getting the pitch where I needed to and that if I missed, I missed off the plate."
Clark summed up the start after the game.
"His velocity was very good all game and his slider was very good today," said Clark. "Once he got past the third inning, it was cruise control after that. He started throwing everything for strikes and started pounding the zone with his fastball and slider. If he had his changeup tonight, it would have been a very easy no-hitter."
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