Rich Harden has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the league over the past month.
The 23-yeard old right-hander came within one out of becoming the first Oakland pitcher in more than four years to record consecutive shutouts, combining with Huston Street on a four-hitter in a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
Harden struck out eight and walked three.
“We couldn’t do much against him,” Darin Erstad of the Angels said. “He throws 98 and he’s got a good split and a good slider. He’s starting to command his stuff. He’s obviously got a great future. You’re going to have to play your `A’ game when you face him.”
Harden, who lost three straight starts in May before being sidelined for more than five weeks because of a strained left oblique muscle, is 5-1 with a 1.34 ERA in six starts since ending his first career stint on the disabled list. He has given up just 18 hits in his last 40 1-3 innings.
His only hiccup was a loss to Toronto on July 7 when he allowed four runs and six walks over five innings.
“He’s only 23, and he’s already one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball,” Angels left-hander Jarrod Washburn said. “The A’s have had a history of great pitching, and to me, Harden might be the best of all of them in terms of potential and stuff.”
The A’s put themselves in position for the sweep with Saturday’s 5-4 win. Oakland hit four home runs in winning its fifth straight and 11th in its last 13.
The Rangers have lost four straight and eight of 10, and are back at .500 for the first time since being 15-15 on May 6.
Off the field, the news has been even worse. Center fielder Laynce Nix said Saturday he will have season-ending surgery on his right shoulder next week.
“I have to get it fixed so I’ll be ready for next season,” Nix said. “It’s been bothering me since last season when I ran into a wall. I feel I have to get something done about it.
“It’s difficult. I’ve played with it for a long time, tried to get used to it, tried to beat it, but the reality is I have to be healthy to be a player.”
The Rangers have been using Gary Matthews Jr. in center field since Nix went on the disabled list on July 17. David Dellucci and Richard Hidalgo have also started in center for the Rangers this season.