Coming off his first loss in a month and a half, Rich Harden will take another shot at becoming the Oakland Athletics’ fifth 10-game winner when the AL West leaders continue a three-game series with the visiting Cleveland Indians.
More importantly, he’ll try to prevent the slumping A’s from possibly losing sole possession of first place.
Harden, who has emerged as a solid contributor to Oakland’s talented rotation, had reeled off six straight wins over 13 starts before Sunday’s 13-5 loss to Toronto. The 22-year-old right-hander was pounded for a season high-tying seven runs and seven hits over 4 1-3 innings, suffering his first defeat since a 10-3 loss at Anaheim on June 21.
“I left a few pitches up in the zone and that hurt me,” said Harden, who had yielded one run over 15 innings in his previous two starts.
Harden is trying to join Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Redman in Oakland’s double-digit victory club. Since moving from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968, the A’s have never had five pitchers with at least 10 wins.
The A’s lost Friday’s series opener 4-3 as Cleveland’s Casey Blake belted the go-ahead homer in the top of the 12th inning. With its fifth straight defeat, Oakland saw its lead in the AL West shaved to just one game over Anaheim.
The A’s visit the Angels for what figures to be a critical three-game series from Sept. 24-26. But first, they’ll have to do better against Cleveland.
The Indians have won six of seven meetings from Oakland this year, and have won three straight overall.