Well, so much for seven scoreless. Rich Harden’s first six pitches were out of the strike zone, and if that doesn’t spell a bad omen, nothing will. Thus, the first inning evolved exactly as you might expect. The bad news for A’s fans: Harden surrendered two runs to put his team in a hole against Kenny Rogers. The good news for A’s fans: Could’ve been much worse, because the Tigers had a run in, runners at first and second and no out.
From there, Harden worked his way out of it. A fielder’s choice ground out by Magglio Ordonez and a 3-6-1 double play by Carlos Guillen minimized the damage. Harden then flipped the ball in disgust toward the mound, and you couldn’t blame him. For the a’s, it’s all uphill from here.
This may be the only time I ever write this, but for one day, being a sportswriter is more appealing than being a baseball player. At this time and place, anyway. The A’s and Detroit Tigers are set to strap it on for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in weather that’s much more suited for the Raiders and Detroit Lions (and what a clash of the titans that would be). Temperature on my hotel thermostat was 38 degrees when I left for the park a couple of hours ago, the wind is whipping, and it’s about as miserable as you can imagine.
In other words, it’s gonna be a miserable day for the hitters. Now whether that helps or aids Rich Harden in his quest to put the A’s back in this series remains to be seen, as is the effect the cold will have on Detroit starter Kenny Rogers. But you’d imagine this will be a very low-scoring contest, perhaps dependent on the bullpens.
Harden, meantime, heads to the hill for the first time since the Oct. 1 regular-season finale and for just the ninth time all season. The consensus among the scribes seems to be that the A’s need seven shutout innings from Harden, but that would be asking a lot. To me, the A’s have to be pleased if Harden gives them five quality innings. The guy is essentially in the midst of his spring training, and the A’s had better be very careful with him. No use losing him for another extended period by pushing him further than he’s ready to go. If the A’s need more than five quality innings from Harden to win this series,then Jim Leyland and his brand of magic will be on display next weekend against the winner of the NL.
Speaking of Leyland, keep an eye on Ramon Santiago today. He’s Leyland’s designated hunch of the day — Santiago will be the DH — and we saw what happened when he chose Alexis Gomez to fill that spot in Game 2.
And finally, one more note on the weather. Colleague Gary Peterson just wandered the park and said you’d have to be “brain dead” to pay to sit in this cold weather and watch a game. Nobody told him that’s a qualification for living in Detroit in the first place.