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4/21: Open Game Thread

Wrapping up another quick two-game series against a rival before starting a weekend set against Cleveland.

First Pitch: 10:05pm EDT


Kotsay CF                   Ichiro RF
Kendall C                   Reed CF
Chavez 3B                   Beltre 3B
Durazo DH                   Sexson 1B
Hatteberg 1B                Boone 2B
Ellis 2B                    Ibanez DH
Swisher RF                  Winn LF
Thomas LF                   Olivo C
Scutaro SS                  Valdez SS

----------                  ----------

Harden (1-0, 0.68)          Franklin (1-1, 2.18)

Blez, of Athletics Nation, discusses Oakland's most promising young starter:

Rich Harden has possibly the best pure stuff in baseball right now.  
The kid from Canada routinely hits 94, 95 on the radar gun and often gets stronger as the game goes on. He had the most number of pitches over 98 mph in the majors last season. He's also learning how to pitch rather than just try and amp it up on the gun too, which makes him that much more difficult to hit.

The thing about Harden is that, unlike Zito, he can make a mistake and get away with it because of the velocity.  A's catcher Jason Kendall was recently quoted after Harden's last start saying, "His stuff is so tough to catch, I can't imagine how hard it is to hit it."  Kendall was largely referring to Harden's nasty splitter, which some scouts have said can be as devastating as Clemens' splitter. Harden's velocity sometimes makes his susceptible to the home run ball because all a hitter has to do is make solid contact and Harden provides the power to help it get out of the park.

Harden was also the A's staff ace coming down the stretch last year when The Big Three collectively stumbled.  He was 8-2 with a 3.49 ERA and opponents batted just .229 off the kid. Opponents are batting just .200 in two starts this year and he's only given up four walks in 13 1/3 innings this year.  In the past, walks have been a problem for Harden.

For Franklin, the key - as always - will be keeping the ball away from the middle of the plate so that the A's hitters can't make solid contact. He has a spotty history against Eric Chavez, so look for Oakland's slugging third baseman to get some good hacks against Franklin, with Erubiel Durazo also a decent bet to get some good swings in. It'll be important for Ryan to keep the ball low and limit baserunners so that, if and when he gets hit, the damage is minimal.