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Harden strikes out nine in first win

5/7/2004

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Rich Harden struck out Alex Rodriguez and
Jorge Posada twice, and also fanned Gary Sheffield and Derek Jeter.

Yes, the 22-year-old right-hander who was criticized all spring
handled the heart of one of baseball's best lineups with the calm
of a veteran.

Harden had nine strikeouts in his first win of the season and
the Oakland Athletics snapped the New York Yankees' eight-game
winning streak with a 7-4 victory Thursday night.

And after Harden was done, he preferred to talk hockey instead
of pitching.

"Calgary's going to win," he said with a grin, referring to
the Flames' Western Conference final series against the San Jose
Sharks.

Harden, a former hockey player who lived in Calgary as a child
before moving to Victoria, British Columbia, retired 19 of 21
during one stretch, starting with the first strikeout of A-Rod in
the second.

"Sometimes in life you suddenly can't do anything right,"
Sheffield said. "He found a rhythm tonight and kept with it."

Mark Kotsay matched his career high with four RBI, helping the
A's avoid their first three-game sweep by the Yankees in Oakland
since May 31-June 2, 1996. Erubiel Durazo went 3-for-3 with a solo
homer. The A's had lost nine of 11 and three straight.

Harden, making his first career appearance against the Yankees,
fell behind 4-0 on five straight hits in the second inning, then
settled down and calmly held New York in check the rest of the way.

He retired the side in order in the third, fourth, sixth and
seventh innings, striking out Jeter and Rodriguez in consecutive
at-bats to end the seventh. Harden threw a career-high 121 pitches
in a career-high 7 2-3 innings, leaving to a standing ovation.

"It's pretty exciting, but I've still got another one in five
more days," he said.

The Yankees were held to six hits after getting 28 in the first
two games of the series. New York won the first five meetings
between the teams in 2004, including a three-game sweep at Yankee
Stadium last week.

Kotsay hit a two-run double in the second and drove in two more
with his sixth-inning single. It was the sixth time he's had four
RBI in a game and the first since Aug. 4, 2002, against
Cincinnati.

The Yankees, who also had an eight-game winning streak last
season, lost for the first time since April 25, when they were
swept in three games by rival Boston. They were trying to win nine
in a row for the first time since June 27-July 6, 2001.

"We learned a lot about ourselves during the bad streak and
this streak," manager Joe Torre said. "We're starting to find our
personality. ... We struck out tonight a little more than we
normally have. You can't place blame as much as give credit to the
other side."

Mark Redman usually follows Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, but the
A's switched the rotation and started Harden instead to avoid using
three straight lefties.

Harden (1-2) hit Posada on the right elbow with 95 mph fastball
in the fifth, but didn't let it faze him.

"He's made a quantum leap from spring training," manager Ken
Macha said.

Macha met with his maligned bullpen before the game to let the
relievers know he hasn't lost confidence in them.

Ricardo Rincon entered with runners on first and second in the
eighth and struck out Tony Clark. Jim Mecir pitched a perfect ninth
for his first save. Closer Arthur Rhodes wasn't available after
throwing 34 pitches and blowing a save Wednesday.

"No problems. Everything's all right," Rincon said. "It's
concentration more than anything for me."

Javier Vazquez (3-3) struggled in his sixth start of the season,
allowing seven runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings.

The A's loaded the bases against Vazquez with two outs in the
sixth on a pair of singles and a walk, then Vazquez walked
pinch-hitter Billy McMillon to score Durazo for a 5-4 lead. Kotsay
then hit his two-run single.

"I'm a pitcher who likes to throw strikes," Vazquez said.
"When I'm walking people, I know I don't have it."

In the second, Enrique Wilson hit an RBI single and New York
also got a two-run triple from Kenny Lofton, who played for the
first time since coming off the disabled list Sunday with a
strained right quadriceps muscle. He had been hitless in his last
10 at-bats and was batting .167 in six games.

Oakland added three runs in the second. Damian Miller walked
with the bases loaded, and Kotsay hit a two-run double.

Durazo connected for his fifth homer of the year in the sixth,
tying it at 4.

Game notes
Kotsay is 5-for-11 with two outs and runners in scoring
position. ... Yankees 1B Jason Giambi was held out of the starting
lineup with the stomach flu.