Harden improves to 4-0 as A's blank Giants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Rich Harden understands why the Oakland Athletics are limiting his workload. The right-hander also knows there will come a time when the restraints will come off.

Harden pitched one-hit ball for six innings and matched his season high with nine strikeouts, and Kurt Suzuki hit his first career triple in the Oakland Athletics' 4-0 win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night.

"I'd like to get my pitch count up a little more, but we have some time to do that so there's no sense doing it right now," Harden said. "I was fine with that. Coming off my last start I wasn't quite feeling 100 percent and I think that's the big reason why we didn't push it today."

Harden (4-0) walked two while facing only two batters over the minimum. It was the third straight start and fifth time overall this season in which the Oakland right-hander has had at least eight strikeouts.

Brad Ziegler, Alan Embree, Keith Foulke and Huston Street completed the six-hitter for the A's, Oakland's third shutout of the year.

That offset an otherwise strong performance from San Francisco starter Matt Cain (3-5), who had a season-high 11 strikeouts but gave up two runs and six hits in seven-plus innings. The righty is winless in his last six interleague starts.

"You had two outstanding right-handers going out there," A's manager Bob Geren said. "They were really just kind of overmatching the hitters from both sides. It was a tough day for the hitters."

It was the A's fifth straight win over the Giants and their eighth win in 12 games overall.

San Francisco lost for the fourth time in five games and has dropped 10 of 13 at home. The Giants were shut out for the second time in four games and the fifth time this season.

Harden has been beset by injuries each of the last three seasons and spent a month on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder earlier this year.

The A's have been cautious with Harden as a result, allowing him to pitch more than six innings in only three of nine starts. He acknowledged having a sore right arm for a few days following his most recent start, June 8 against the Los Angeles Angels, which is why Geren was quick to pull Harden after he threw 95 pitches against the Giants.

"I didn't want to push him too far. He's having a great year for us and I just want it to remain that way," Geren said. "Before he even threw one pitch we kind of had it in mind what we wanted to do."

Working primarily off his fastball and changeup, Harden gave up a two-out single to Randy Winn in the first, walked Winn in the fourth and walked Fred Lewis in the sixth but was flawless beyond that. Lewis was later thrown out trying to steal second.

"It wasn't a mystery what you saw," said Suzuki, Oakland's catcher. "He just kept them off balance. With the stuff that Rich has, when he's throwing that changeup in for strikes in any type of count, unless you guess right it's tough."

Ziegler relieved Harden to start the seventh and gave up an infield single to Winn but got Bengie Molina to ground into a double play. A throwing error by A's third baseman Eric Chavez and an infield single against Embree put runners at the corners, but Embree struck out Jose Castillo to end San Francisco's best scoring threat.

Cain was equally strong, striking out seven of the first 11 batters he faced. He allowed a first-inning run on Jack Cust's RBI double but was otherwise solid, fanning Oakland leadoff hitter Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez twice apiece.

"Matt knows he did all he could," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He understands how well [Harden] pitched. He can't control some things, and when you get shut out, that is a tough break for a starter."

The Giants didn't help him much offensively or defensively.

Suzuki, who had three hits, tripled past diving San Francisco center fielder Aaron Rowand in the seventh and scored on Daric Barton's sacrifice fly. It was the first triple in 441 career at-bats for the 24-year-old catcher.

Ellis and Carlos Gonzalez later scored on wild pitches for Oakland.

"I felt like I had great stuff today and had some pitches that obviously came back to get me," Cain said. "I love watching Rich throw when we get to see him on TV and it's sad that he's healthy for us right now, but he's got unbelievable stuff. We knew it was going to be a tough game and a lot of short innings and we were going to have to capitalize. We couldn't get it done."

Game notes
After the game, the Giants optioned LHP Patrick Misch to Triple-A Fresno. The move was made to make room for RHP Kevin Correia (1-3), who will be activated from the disabled list and start Sunday against Oakland LHP Dana Eveland (4-5) in the series finale. ... Winn reached base four times with two singles and two walks. ... A's RHP Santiago Casilla pitched one shutout inning for Triple-A Stockton on Friday and will pitch for Triple-A Sacramento on Monday.