In only his second big league season, Rich Harden has established himself as a valued member of the one of the top starting staffs in baseball.
Harden entered the season hoping to find his niche behind Oakland’s Big Three of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito. Since the All-Star break, he has emerged as the A’s most consistent starter behind Mulder, who is a strong candidate for AL Cy Young Award honors.
Harden is 6-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 starts since the break, and has been even better of late, going 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his last five outings.
On Tuesday, he allowed one run and four hits over seven innings, striking out five without a walk, in a 7-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox. In his last two starts, Harden has yielded one run and eight hits over 15 innings, striking out 10 and walking one.
Last year, Harden went 5-4 with a 4.46 ERA in 15 appearances for the A’s.
“Rich has really matured and is going to help us heading towards the playoffs,” A’s outfielder Mark Kotsay said of the 22-year-old hurler. “Pitching is going to be the focus of this team so it’s our job to give them a lead to work with.”
With a win Sunday, Harden will give the A’s five 10-game winners for the first time in franchise history, joining Mulder, Zito, Hudson and Mark Redman.
Eric Byrnes’ three-run triple in the ninth helped Oakland to a 9-5 win over Toronto on Saturday, giving the red-hot A’s 16 victories in their last 19 games. Mulder allowed five runs and 10 hits over six innings, failing to become the majors’ first 18-game winner.
Kevin Cash homered for Toronto, which has lost eight of 11.