ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Matt Harrison was happy just to be back on the mound a little more than a year after career-threatening spinal fusion surgery.
Now the Texas left-hander wants to be better the next time out.
Harrison gave up A.J. Pollock’s three-run homer in a five-run second inning, and the Rangers lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-4 Wednesday night.
“I didn’t know if it was going to happen,” the 29-year-old Harrison said of his first start since May 13, 2014, against Houston, an outing he left with back stiffness. “I’ve got to get better — a lot better than I was tonight.”
The Rangers dropped their eighth straight at home, one shy of the club record since moving to Texas in 1972. It was the team’s fifth consecutive loss overall.
Harrison (0-1), an All-Star in 2012 before back problems that limited him to six appearances over the past two seasons, was activated from the disabled list Saturday. That was the deadline for the move at the end of a 30-day rehabilitation assignment that included six minor league starts.
There is no known history of a major leaguer coming back from spinal fusion surgery, which was the last of three procedures for Harrison in about a year.
He was called for a balk in a scoreless first inning that started with a single by Nick Ahmed, who had two hits along with Pollock and Welington Castillo. Four straight hitters reached with two outs in the second, capped by Pollock’s drive into the seats above the 14-foot wall in left field for his 11th homer.
Harrison, who threw in the mid-90s (mph) before he started having back issues, hit 87 mph with his first fastball, but couldn’t go above that. He walked three and struck out one, leaving to a standing ovation after Pollock’s leadoff single in the fifth.
“I’m sure Matt went through some hard, lonely hours on back fields, back bullpens, training room, weight room and at home wondering if this day was ever going to come again,” first-year Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “Personally I’m proud of the trek he’s come through and been on to walk back on the mound tonight.”
Arizona reached the break-even mark (42-42) for the first time since April 24. The Diamondbacks had lost 11 straight times after getting within a game of .500.
Before Pollock’s trip to Cincinnati as a first-time All-Star, Arizona heads to New York for a three-game series with the Mets.
“I think our expectations of ourselves are very high, and it’s well above .500,” said Pollock, selected an NL reserve on Monday. “I don’t think we were too worried about that actual mark, because if we kept playing good baseball we knew it was going to take care of itself.”
Randall Delgado (4-2) was the second of five Arizona relievers behind right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who came out after four innings because of a blister on his right thumb.
Brad Ziegler pitched a perfect ninth for his career-best 14th save.
Castillo hit a two-run homer for a 7-2 Arizona lead in the fifth.
Hellickson allowed six hits and two runs with two walks and four strikeouts, including Robinson Chirinos and Delino DeShields back-to-back with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth and Arizona leading 5-2. Hellickson escaped the jam by getting Shin-Soo Choo on a flyout.
IT’S A STANDOFF
Yasmany Tomas hit a slow roller that Texas first baseman Prince Fielder grabbed in front of the bag. Fielder waited for Tomas to reach him for the tag, but Tomas stopped. After they stared at each other for a few seconds, Fielder finally turned and touched the base.
Diamondbacks: Manager Chip Hale said Hellickson has dealt with blisters before and would probably be able to take his next turn on regular rest. But because of the All-Star break, he’ll get more time for the thumb to heal.
Rangers: LHP Martin Perez pitched seven innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday. He gave up seven hits and two runs with no walks and two strikeouts. His rehab stint can go through July 21, the first time the Rangers will need a fifth starter after the All-Star break.
Diamondbacks: RHP Chase Anderson (4-2) pitches Friday night against the Mets.
Rangers: LHP Wandy Rodriguez (5-4) starts the opener of a three-game home series against San Diego on Friday after Texas’ second day off this week.
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