Rich Harden needed just one start to make people in Oakland start talking about the potential for a Big Four in the Athletics’ rotation.
The highly touted rookie hopes to build on a brilliant big league debut when the A’s resume a four-game series with the Anaheim Angels at Edison Field.
With Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder constituting perhaps the best front three pitchers in any rotation in the majors, the A’s are just looking for Harden to add some stability to the back end of the staff.
He did much more than that Monday in Kansas City. The hard-throwing right-hander yielded just one run and four hits, while striking out four and walking one, over seven strong innings. The A’s went on to score five runs in the ninth to pull out a 6-1 win.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Harden admitted, “but once I settled down, everything went pretty well.”
Oakland manager Ken Macha didn’t hold back his praise.
“He was terrific,” Macha said. “He needs to work on a couple of things. He was tipping his pitches a little bit, and I think they picked that up in the first inning. But his stuff was so good it really didn’t matter.”
Harden’s strong outing helped end a four-game losing streak for the A’s, who have bounced back to win four of their last five, including Friday’s series-opening 3-2 victory.
The defending World Series champion Angels have lost seven of nine since a five-game winning streak just prior to the All-Star break.
STANDINGS: Athletics - 2nd place, 4 GB, AL West. Angels - 3rd place, 10 1/2 GB, AL West.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Harden (0-0, 1.29 ERA). Harden went 9-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 16 appearances, including 14 starts, with Triple-A Sacramento, striking out 91 in 88 2-3 innings. Last year, Harden struck out 187—the second highest total in the minors—while splitting time with Class A Visalia and Double-A Midland.
ANGELS PROBABLE STARTER: Aaron Sele (6-7, 5.15 ERA). Sele had won three straight starts before a 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday. The veteran right-hander yielded two runs and seven hits over seven innings, walking three without a strikeout. Sele is 14-6 with a 3.73 ERA in 28 career starts against Oakland.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Eric Byrnes, .284 avg.; Eric Chavez, 19 HRs and 8 SBs; Tejada, 58 RBIs; Erubiel Durazo and Tejada, 56 runs. Angels - Garret Anderson, .319 avg., 23 HRs and 85 RBIs; Tim Salmon, 56 runs; Adam Kennedy, 13 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 5-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - RHP Keith Foulke has converted 26 of 30 save opportunities this season. … The A’s gave 1B Scott Hatteberg a two-year contract extension through 2005, with a one-year club option, Friday. … SS Tejada is hitting .304 with two homers and six RBIs in 46 career at-bats against RHP Sele. Angels - RHP Brendan Donnelly has stranded 20 of his 23 inherited runners, and retired 36 of 43 first-batters faced. However, he suffered his first loss of the season Friday, yielding two runs in the eighth innings. He had not yielded a run in 13 consecutive appearances dating to June 18 at Seattle. … Sele is 3-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six home starts this year. … Friday’s loss kicked off a crucial 10-game homestand for the Angels, who will play three games against the New York Yankees starting Tuesday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 22-28 on the road; Angels - 29-21 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - OF Jermaine Dye (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL. Angels - 1B-DH Brad Fullmer (knee), 15-day DL; 3B Troy Glaus (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Wise (elbow), 60-day DL.