With the luxury of preparing for the playoffs, the Texas Rangers rested four healthy regulars in their last game.
Harden will try Wednesday afternoon to help the Rangers avoid getting swept at home by the Seattle Mariners for the first time since 2002.
With its first playoff appearance and AL West title since 1999 already assured, Texas (87-70) is making sure it will have a healthy team. Key offensive cogs Ian Kinsler(notes), Elvis Andrus(notes), Michael Young(notes) and Vladimir Guerrero(notes) all sat out Tuesday’s 3-1 loss.
The Rangers are also making some adjustments to their rotation, which is expected to feature left-handers Cliff Lee(notes) and C.J. Wilson(notes) and right-hander Colby Lewis(notes) for the division series. While those front-line starters rested Tuesday, Scott Feldman(notes) made his second start since July 24. He couldn’t match Seattle ace Felix Hernandez(notes), who dominated the light-hitting Texas lineup.
Harden (5-5, 5.42 ERA), whose last start was exactly a month ago, hopes to get better run support in the series finale. He’ll have what figures to be a more favorable matchup than Feldman did, as Seattle (61-96) will hand the ball to Jason Vargas(notes) (9-12, 3.91), who has lost his last seven starts - one shy of a franchise record shared by Randy Johnson(notes) (1992) and Rick Honeycutt (1980).
Harden has made only two relief appearances since he came off the disabled list last month. He will try to keep Seattle from completing its first sweep of three or more games in Arlington since a four-game set in 2002.
The Mariners haven’t swept any road series since taking three games at Oakland from April 10-12, 2009.
Harden, who has given up four runs in 2 2-3 innings of relief this month, has a 5.17 ERA in 17 starts. The right-hander is 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA in eight starts against the Mariners, but has not faced them since 2007.
While the Rangers will have a former member of the rotation take the mound Wednesday, they added starter Tommy Hunter(notes) to the bullpen Tuesday in preparation for his postseason role. He retired both batters he faced in the fifth inning.
“It was different, I will tell you that,” said Hunter, whose previous 43 major league appearances had all come as a starter. “I had some adrenaline going.”
Vargas (9-12, 3.91) has a 6.59 ERA during his seven-start losing streak. He gave up five runs and walked four in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday.
The left-hander is 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA in three starts against Texas this season.