Harden struck out nine in seven scoreless innings, leading the
A's to a 3-1 victory Thursday in a spectacular home debut for the
21-year-old Canadian right-hander.
Harden (2-0) allowed three hits and four walks while carving up
the Indians' lineup -- and striking out eight of nine hitters at one
point. The Coliseum crowd gave several standing ovations to Harden,
who has lived up to his hype as one of the best prospects in
With AL Cy Young winner Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson
all in the midst of strong seasons, the A's have no shortage of
outstanding pitching. But in his first three major league starts,
Harden has been even more dominating than his talented young
teammates, allowing just two earned runs in 21 innings while
striking out 16 batters.
"Being up here, I've realized there's not too much of a
difference," said Harden, who began the season by retiring 39
straight hitters with Double-A Midland before becoming a PCL
All-Star at Triple-A Sacramento.
"If I throw strikes, it's going to be fine. It's mostly the
off-the-field stuff that's been an adjustment. ... We have some
early wake-up calls in the minors, so it's nice to hop on a private
Starting with a four-pitch first inning, Harden was in complete
control -- even though he said his fastball wasn't nearly as good as
it can be. With breaking pitches that seemed to fall off a table,
he overwhelmed Cleveland from the second to the fifth innings,
striking out every batter in the lineup except Coco Crisp.
"Harden looks like the real thing," Cleveland manager Eric
Wedge said. "We helped him by chasing some pitches, but he had
good stuff. He was able to go down and away with power. With that,
he can move the ball up in the zone, too. Even his secondary stuff
isn't bad, especially for such a young pitcher."
Two Indians reached base in the seventh during Cleveland's only
attempt at a rally, but Harden escaped the jam.
"When they get guys in scoring position, he's got a little
extra gear to go back and get a strikeout for you," A's manager
Ken Macha said. "When a guy's pitching like that, you let him go.
You don't want to over-coach him. It was a tremendous display."
Jake Westbrook (4-6) allowed four hits, four walks and three
runs for Cleveland. He couldn't escape a fifth-inning jam capped by
Tejada's bases-loaded single.
"My counts got me into trouble all day," Westbrook said. "I
need to make those adjustments to keep them low. I just made too
many pitches in those five innings."
Harden got a no-decision and an easy victory in his first two
road starts in the majors, where he has shown a grace and poise
that don't add up for a 17th-round draft pick who didn't seriously
begin pitching until junior college.
"I didn't even really have my good fastball today," Harden
said. "There were a few times when I was trying to get a little
too fine, and I missed my spots. It's a good experience to have to
make some adjustments."
Harden's development was one reason the A's were able to trade
right-hander Aaron Harang to the Reds on Wednesday in a package for
outfielder Jose Guillen. Guillen arrived in the A's dugout during
the third inning. He shook hands with most of the A's and chatted
with third-base coach Ron Washington.
When Tejada came into the dugout, he hugged Guillen. The players
are from the same area of the Dominican Republic.
Guillen did not play against the Indians. He is expected to
start for the A's on Friday in the opener of a three-game series
against the New York Yankees.
Guillen will wear No. 6 for the A's. ... For the second day
in a row, a fan charged the field in the eighth inning. He was
tackled by five security guards and led away in handcuffs. There
have been a series of fan-related incidents at the Coliseum this
season, including the apparent beaning of outfielder Carl Everett
with a cell phone thrown from the upper deck. ... Crisp extended
his hitting streak to 13 games when he got the Indians' first hit
in the third inning.