The Oakland Athletics started another series with a solid victory as they defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. The A’s rode an excellent performance by Rich Harden and timely two-out hitting to a 5-4 victory in the series opener. One of the biggest problems for the A’s offense in 2011 has been a lack of two out hits. They had four hits Friday night with two outs and runners in scoring position, which was more than they had in the previous eight games.
Although the offense was key, Rich Harden was the story of the night as he looked solid in his return to the A’s starting rotation. Harden was on a pitch count but managed to last six strong innings. He had struggled in previous years with inefficiency in his pitches but that was far from the case on Friday. He struckout six batters through six innings on just 76 pitches. The key was not walking batters and getting ahead in the count whenever possible. His only mistakes came on a changeup that Wily Mo Pena absolutely destroyed and then a couple mistakes to Kelly Johnson and Stephen Drew.
Harden threw 72 pitches in his last start for Sacramento so he probably could have come out for the seventh inning and still stayed within the 90 pitch count. However, given the normally strong A’s bullpen it made sense to get him out while he was feeling good and had a lead. The bullpen did struggle a bit as Brian Fuentes gave up a two run home run to Kelly Johnson. However, Joey Devine and Andrew Bailey slammed the door after Fuentes left to secure the win.
The win was made possible by some impressive two-out hitting by the A’s. The A’s scored all five runs with two out hits. Ryan Sweeney had an RBI single in the fourth inning to get the A’s even 1-1. In the fifth, David DeJesus and Scott Sizemore each singled before the second out was made. That was followed by RBI singles from Cliff Pennington and Coco Crisp, and an RBI double from Hideki Matsui.
The A’s and Diamondbacks play the second game of their series Saturday night at 6:05pm pacific on CSN California. Josh Outman will face Joe Saunders as the A’s look to build on the series-opening win.