Harden fast

Rich Harden’s 2008 debut is in the books, and it was a doozy. Six innings, nine strikeouts and only a lone run — a homer by Boston’s Manny Ramirez, and obviously there’s no shame in that.

Take it with the proper caution, however. Harden has tantalized like this before. Two Aprils ago, I remember watching him mow down the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field and thinking he was going to win at least 20. Last year, I called our beat writer Joe Stiglich at the Coliseum while watching Harden make the Yankees look like fools, and moments after hanging up the phone, he walked off with an injury that essentially ruined his season.

That said, it is easy to let the mind wander. Harden is so much fun to watch when he’s right, because he makes it look so effortless. This morning, he spotted all his pitches consistently and was clocking 95 mph at times, according to the ESPN radar.

Now, it’s reliever Santiago Casilla. The A’s couldn’t close out a one-run lead late yesterday. Let’s see if they can protect a 4-1 lead in this one.