That’s because Rich Harden has been outstanding since being called up from the minors two weeks before the deadline. The 21-year-old right-hander looks to maintain his mastery in the majors as the Athletics open a three-game set with the Detroit Tigers.
Since having his contract purchased from Triple-A Sacramento on July 17, Harden has surrendered just two runs over 21 innings while striking out 16 in three starts. He’s won two of them, thus far showing his status as a ‘can’t miss’ prospect was justified.
“Being up here, I’ve realized there’s not too much of a difference,” said Harden, who began the season by retiring 39 straight hitters with Double-A Midland before becoming a PCL All-Star at Sacramento.
“If I throw strikes, it’s going to be fine. It’s mostly the off-the-field stuff that’s been an adjustment.”
Harden said he didn’t even have his best stuff Thursday when he gave up three hits in seven scoreless innings of a 3-1 win over Cleveland.
“When they get guys in scoring position, he’s got a little extra gear to go back and get a strikeout for you,” A’s manager Ken Macha said.
Macha’s team has won 10 of 14. In 12 of those games, the Athletics’ starting pitcher has gone at least seven innings and allowed three runs or fewer.
Guillen, who hit .337 with 23 homers and 63 RBIs for Cincinnati before being traded to Oakland, is 2-for-13 (.154) with no extra-base hits or RBIs since being acquired. The outfielder could get on track against a Detroit pitching staff which allowed 47 runs on the team’s six-game trip through Seattle and Minnesota.
Twenty-two of those runs came in the first inning, including two in Sunday’s 7-2 loss to the Twins.
“We’re just not a team capable of falling behind early and getting back into a game,” said manager Alan Trammell, whose Tigers have dropped six of seven and 13 of 16.
STANDINGS: Athletics - 2nd place, 4 GB, AL West. Tigers - 5th place, 30 GB, AL Central.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Harden (2-0, 0.86 ERA). Opponents are batting .203 against Harden, the youngest Oakland starting pitcher since Steve Karsay in 1993. He walked four in Thursday’s win over Cleveland after walking just three batters over his first two outings.
TIGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Nate Cornejo (5-9, 4.60 ERA). The right-hander endured the shortest of his 40 major league starts in Wednesday’s 13-3 loss to Seattle. He retired just two batters as he gave up seven hits and nine runs, though six were unearned. Cornejo was 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his previous three outings. He won his first career start against the Athletics, but then was victimized by Mark Mulder’s three-hitter in a 2-0 loss at Oakland on April 24 as Cornejo allowed a run and five hits in six innings.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Eric Byrnes, .277 avg.; Eric Chavez, 20 HRs and 8 SBs; Miguel Tejada, 70 RBIs and 63 runs. Tigers - Dmitri Young, .286 avg., 22 HRs, 59 RBIs and 53 runs; Alex Sanchez, 24 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - SS Tejada has driven in two runs in each of the last four games. The reigning AL MVP has 13 RBIs in his last 10 games after totaling two in his previous 21 contests. … Oakland has not lost a series to Detroit since 2000. The A’s are 16-4 against the Tigers over the last three years. … Since July 1, OF Byrnes has seven hits in 79 at-bats (.089). Tigers - INF-OF Young is batting .174 (4-for-23) this season against the A’s. … Detroit has totaled just 14 runs in six games against Oakland this season. … The Tigers have induced an AL-leading 126 double plays.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 24-29 on the road; Tigers - 13-37 at home.