Things appeared all too easy for rookie Rich Harden in his first four major league starts as he went 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA.
He hasn’t been nearly as dominant since, but Oakland Athletics manager Ken Macha says the 21-year-old right-hander is doing some important on-the-job learning.
Harden will bid for his third win in four starts when the AL West-leading A’s resume a three-game series with the Anaheim Angels at Edison Field.
Harden burst on the scene as a heralded prospect in late July, yielding two runs or fewer in each of his first four major league starts. But a four-start winless streak followed, boosting his ERA to 4.33.
Harden has found winning more difficult of late, gritting his way to two wins in three outings, including a 14-4 victory over the Angels on Thursday.
Harden surrendered two runs in the first inning, but settled down thereafter, finishing with a line of three runs and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings.
Macha was impressed.
“To have him make that step—to go out and throw as well as he did—it’s a sign of improvement,” he said.
The A’s won their seventh straight Monday as Miguel Tejada’s grand slam powered Oakland to a 7-4 victory over Anaheim.
The A’s winning streak has helped them open a season-high 4 1/2 -game lead over second-place Seattle in the West.
The Angels, who are already assured of being the first defending World Series champions not to reach the postseason since the 1998 Florida Marlins, have lost six of seven.
STANDINGS: Athletics - 1st place, AL West. Angels - 3rd place, 20 GB, AL West.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Harden (5-4, 4.83 ERA). Harden is 2-3 with a 5.46 ERA in six road starts. He is winless in his last three starts away from Network Associates Coliseum, surrendering 15 runs over 11 1-3 innings.
ANGELS PROBABLE STARTER: Jarrod Washburn (10-14, 4.33 ERA). Washburn has lost consecutive starts, including Wednesday’s 3-0 setback at Oakland. The left-hander yielded three runs and seven hits over seven innings, striking out seven without a walk. Washburn is 5-8 with a 3.66 ERA in 18 career appearances, including 17 starts, against the A’s.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Eric Chavez, .282 avg. and 27 HRs; Tejada, 101 RBIs and 93 runs; Tejada and Eric Byrnes, 9 SBs. Angels - Garret Anderson, .312 avg., 29 HRs, 114 RBIs; Tim Salmon and Anderson, 73 runs; Adam Kennedy, 21 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 11-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - OF Jose Guillen is expected to be lost for the rest of the season with a broken bone in his left hand. Guillen hurt the hand striking out in the second inning of Sunday’s game in Texas. … The A’s are 20-11 on the road since losing four games at Minnesota prior to the All-Star break. … SS Tejada has reached 100 RBIs in each of the last four years. Angels - LHP Washburn is 3-8 with a 4.28 ERA in 14 home starts this season. … OF Anderson is 3-for-5 with a walk against RHP Harden. … 2B Kennedy had an 11-game hitting streak snapped Monday, going 0-for-3.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 38-38 on the road; Angels - 40-34 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - LHP Mark Mulder (leg), 15-day DL; LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 60-day DL. Angels - 3B Troy Glaus (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Darin Erstad (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Wise (elbow), 60-day DL; C Bengie Molina (wrist), 60-day DL; 1B-DH Brad Fullmer (knee), 60-day DL.