Amid a mostly disappointing season for Rich Harden, his return
from the disabled list last weekend could be classified as a major
The top highlight of 2010 for the Texas Rangers right-hander,
however, came against the team that drafted him.
Harden tries for a repeat of his first start against the Oakland
Athletics as he returns to the Bay Area on Saturday looking to
pitch the Rangers to a fourth consecutive win.
A healthy Harden could help Texas (64-45) lock up the AL West
title, an outcome that appears even more likely after extending its
lead to 9 1/2 games over second-place Oakland with a 5-1 win in
Friday night’s series opener. This is the Rangers’ biggest division
lead since 1999, also the last year they won the West.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” ace Cliff Lee said.
“There’s still a lot of season left. We want to clinch it as soon
as we can. But a lot of things can happen. We can’t get complacent
Harden (4-3, 5.25 ERA) is unlikely to fall victim to
complacency. He has struggled with control and efficiency this
year, walking 45 in 72 innings, and he spent seven weeks on the
disabled list with a strained left gluteal muscle.
He was activated last Saturday, posting seven strong innings to
outduel Dan Haren in a 2-1 win over the Angels.
“It feels good to get back out there on the mound,” Harden said.
“I’ve been thinking about getting out there for a while. It’s hard
not to think about it and get that first win out of the way.”
Harden was even better at Oakland on May 3, allowing two hits in
seven scoreless innings and striking out nine without a walk in a
It was the first time he had started against the A’s, who traded
him to the Chicago Cubs on July 8, 2008, after Harden spent his
first 5 1/2 seasons with Oakland.
“I was looking forward to pitching here,” Harden told the
Rangers’ official website at the time. “It’s a familiar setting.
Everything felt good. I know those guys and I know they take
pitchers deep in counts and work walks. I just wanted to be
aggressive and make them swing the bat instead of putting guys on
Lee used a similar approach to neutralize the A’s offense
Friday, limiting Oakland to seven hits without walking a batter in
The A’s (54-54) rank 11th in the AL in runs and have been held
to two or fewer seven times in their last 16 games, accounting for
all but one of their losses in that stretch.
Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 3.69) goes to the mound Saturday having
fallen victim to minimal run support lately. The left-hander struck
out a career-high 11 without a walk in eight innings Sunday against
the White Sox, but gave up all of Chicago’s runs in the fourth
inning of a 4-1 defeat.
“You look at it bittersweet,” Gonzalez said. “I threw a complete
game, we battled all the way through and kept the team in the
Gonzalez also was sharp against Texas in his previous outing
July 27, giving up one run in six innings, but the Lee-led Rangers
outlasted him to win 3-1 in 10 innings.
He won his only home start against Texas on Aug. 4, 2009,
working 6 2-3 innings in a 6-0 win.