Harrison is getting ahead with his fastball
OKLAHOMA CITY - Matt Harrison had his best outing as an Oklahoma RedHawk on Saturday, as he gave up two runs in eight innings of work. Lone Star Dugout was on hand for the game and spoke with Harrison after the victory in this free preview of premium content.
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Earlier in the season, Matt Harrison couldn’t have dreamed of pitching eight innings, even on his best of nights.
Although the left-hander was pitching well – he had a 3.33 ERA in nine starts with Double-A Frisco – high pitch counts [along with an early-season bout with shoulder tightness] were limiting Harrison to an average of five innings per start.
In his longest Double-A outing, a seven-inning no-hitter, Harrison walked six batters and threw 120 pitches.
Since his promotion to Triple-A, Harrison has continued to put up strong results, but he has also been much more efficient, leading to longer outings. The former Braves prospect is averaging 6 2/3 innings per start with the RedHawks while posting a 4.00 ERA in four starts with the club.
He has set a season high in each of his last two starts with 7 2/3 and 8 innings, respectively. Harrison’s eight inning outing came on Saturday, where he threw 110 pitches. Harrison gave up two runs while walking two and striking out five.
“It went pretty well,” said Harrison on his start. “My arm felt good tonight. I was able to get ahead with my fastball early in the game and I maintained it throughout. I kept the ball down for the most part and didn’t miss over the plate too much.”
As mentioned by Harrison, he did an excellent job of maintaining his velocity throughout the game. His fastball consistently sat in the 88-92 mph for all eight innings, but he was able to dial it up at times. Harrison threw four consecutive fastballs between 93-94 mph to the last batter of the eighth inning [pitches 106-109].
But the key on Saturday was certainly his location. Although Harrison walked just 14 in 46 innings with Double-A Frisco, he was falling behind in the count too often, causing his pitch count to rise quickly. The southpaw says he has done a better job of getting ahead since his promotion to Triple-A.
“I think getting ahead early in the count – getting strike one,” replied Harrison when asked about his efficiency with Oklahoma. “It puts the hitter in a hole and I’m able to throw more offspeed pitches. I think that has been the big key.”
Harrison mostly worked off his fastball and above-average changeup during the start because there were so few baserunners.
“I was able to throw [the changeup] for strikes and able to get swings and misses,” he said. “I was making them put the ball in play with a ground ball or popup.”
In the fourth inning, one of his few jams, Harrison allowed a single followed by a double, putting runners on second and third with one out. It was then that Harrison relied more on his slider and changeup. He got out of the inning after allowing a sac fly to centerfield followed by a harmless F8.
“That’s what you have to do when you have runners in scoring position,” Harrison said when asked about going to his offspeed stuff. “You have to be able to throw your offspeed pitches for strikes to get them out in big situations.”
With Harrison getting ahead of hitters more often and his still relatively new slider improving by the game, he appears poised to see Arlington before the end of the 2008 season.