Harden makes his home debut for the A’s when they continue a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels.
With Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson getting traded, Harden has emerged as the team’s No. 2 starter behind former AL Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito. Harden delivered in his first start of 2005, allowing one run and five hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 6-1 victory at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
“Overall, I was pretty happy with the way I felt out there,” Harden said. “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been a while since I’ve been out there.”
Harden had not pitched since March 27, missing his first scheduled start with a blister on his ring finger.
The 23-year-old right-hander went 6-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 15 starts at home last season. Harden is 3-2 with a 3.93 ERA in six career starts against the Angels.
Harden remained one of only two starters to notch a win for Oakland after Los Angeles posted a 6-1 victory in the series opener Friday. Zito was the hard-luck loser, allowing a pair of runs and four hits in eight innings to fall to 0-3 for the first time in his career.
Zito was outpitched by Bartolo Colon, who allowed one run and two hits in seven outstanding innings. Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez each worked a hitless inning as the Angels improved to 3-1 on a six-game road trip.
Robb Quinlan got the start at third base for the Angels and doubled in the tying run off Zito in the seventh inning. Quinlan did not commit an error after having a pair of miscues in his first seven starts.
“That’s one area that we know will come around,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve got some guys who can play it. We’re just trying to get the right combination to get some production from there. … No one has really gotten into a groove down there.”