Athletics 8, Angels 1

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Rich Harden pitched with the poise of a veteran.

Harden induced double-play grounders in each of the first four innings and earned his first major league win as the Oakland Athletics beat the Anaheim Angels 8-1 Saturday.

“That was amazing, but you’ve got to tip your hat to Harden. He got in jams, got the ground balls he needed, and the boys turned them,” first baseman Scott Hatteberg said. “Most of the double plays were fairly routine—but getting it, turning it and finishing it takes three perfect moves. So it was great to be able to help out the pitcher.”

Considered perhaps the top pitching prospect in baseball, Harden (1-0) allowed a run and seven hits, struck out three and walked one in seven innings. He gave up one run and four hits over seven innings at Kansas City in his big league debut last Monday.

“Keeping the ball down is something I’ve really been focusing on,” Harden said. “I kept my fastball down and moved it in and out. I was kind of struggling with my offspeed pitches and my command early in the game, but I fixed some things mechanically and got it back a little bit.”

The Canadian-born right-hander, who will turn 22 in November, faced the defending World Series champion Angels twice during spring training—allowing six runs over 1 2-3 innings in his first Cactus League outing.

“I faced most of those guys only four or five times in the spring, so that definitely helped me feel a little more comfortable out there,” Harden said. “I kind of hit a wall about the fifth inning and felt pretty tired. But getting those ground balls and having a great defense behind me helped me a lot.”

The Angels, 11 1/2 games behind first-place Seattle in the AL West and 9 1/2 out in the wild-card chase, grounded into five double plays altogether—including one by Jeff DaVannon that ended the game. Scott Spiezio hit into two.

Jose Molina drove in Anaheim’s run with a two-out bloop single in the fifth. Harden retired his next seven batters before the bullpen closed it out—but not before Chad Bradford retired All-Star MVP Garret Anderson on a foul pop to third with the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate to end the eighth and preserve a 5-1 lead.

“You’re always worried when Garret gets up there representing the tying run,” said Oakland manager Ken Macha. “I was breathing a little easier after that at-bat. It was the biggest at-bat of the game.”

Billy McMillon hit a leadoff homer and went 3-for-5. Hatteberg and Miguel Tejada also had three hits apiece for Oakland and Eric Chavez added a two-run double.

Anaheim’s Aaron Sele (6-8) allowed four runs—three earned—and seven hits over five innings. The right-hander, who won all three starts in which manager Mike Scioscia limited him to five-innings, has dropped both starts since the restrictions were lifted.

“He was working hard out there and his pitch count was a little high,” Scioscia said. “Today wasn’t one of his best starts, but if you look at the last four or five, you have to be encouraged by his progress.”

McMillon, batting leadoff for the third straight day, drove Sele’s third pitch of the game over the center-field fence. The reason Macha is batting him leadoff is because of the struggles Eric Byrnes and Terrence Long had in that role.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it after only three days,” McMillon said. “I haven’t gotten a lot of opportunities in succession in my career, so I’m going to try and take advantage of it. I mean, who wouldn’t? This is what I bring to the table, whether I’m leading off or batting ninth.”

The Athletics extended the margin to 4-0 in the third with an RBI single by Hatteberg and a run-scoring double by Adam Piatt, who struck out his other fourtimes up.

Notes

Oakland’s defense entered with 80 double plays, the second-fewest in the majors. … Kennedy, upset about his diminished role at 2B, met with Scioscia behind closed doors for more than an hour before the game. Kennedy was 2-for-3 and made a diving catch of Ellis’ popup near the foul line. … Tejada has hit safely in all 10 games since the All-Star break. Last year, he hitsafely in his first 24 games after the break.

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