Homers sting Harden in Rangers' loss

Homers sting Harden in Rangers' loss

MILWAUKEE -- The tribulations for Rangers starter Rich Harden continued Friday night at Miller Park. The problem this time was not the walks, but the home runs.

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Harden still leads the American League in walks, but on Friday, he gave up a career-high four home runs, and the Rangers lost to the Brewers, 6-2, in the first of their three-game Interleague series.

The Rangers, who were making their first appearance at Miller Park and their first trip to Milwaukee since 1997, had their three-game winning streak come to an end.

Vladimir Guerrero hit his 14th home run of the season for the Rangers, but Ryan Braun, Casey McGehee, Corey Hart and Prince Fielder all went deep for the Brewers. All six runs given up by Harden came across on home runs.

"I just didn't make pitches when I needed to," Harden said in the clubhouse afterward. "I left a couple of pitches up."

He went over the home runs one by one.

"Braun's I left over the plate," Harden said. "Corey Hart, up and out over the plate. Fielder, we were pitching down and away. That was a decent pitch if I had come in on him and got him off that pitch. It was not the right pitch at the moment. Changeup to McGehee, not the best pitch. He had seen a couple in a row.

"Just a couple of bad pitches."

Harden has now allowed 14 home runs this season, second most in the American League. Kevin Millwood has allowed 16 for the Orioles. Harden has also given up 37 in 206 innings going back to the beginning of last season, after allowing 47 in 612 2/3 innings over his first six seasons in the Majors.

"I think they dropped his arm angle down a little bit," said Brewers manager Ken Macha, who managed Harden in Oakland. "He threw a few more sliders I thought tonight than he normally does. When I had him in Oakland, his fastball was mid-90s. He'd pitch at 94. And then when he got in trouble, he had a few more miles per hour to get out of it. The miles have probably taken the toll on him also."

Harden, since pitching seven scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory over Oakland on May 3, is 1-2 with a 7.60 ERA in his last seven starts. He is 3-3 with a 5.68 ERA on the season.

"I'm trying to stay positive, but it's tough," Harden said. "It's frustrating. I feel like I let the team down. But I'll turn it around."

Harden has cut down on his walks but become more hittable. He walked 7.3 batters per nine innings in his first eight starts, but opponents hit just .234 off him. He is now walking 4.04 batters per nine innings, but the opponent's batting average has gone up to .292.

"He stopped walking people, now he has to start making pitches and get the ball down," manager Ron Washington said. "Start having some quick innings."

Harden did pitch six complete innings for the first time since May 3 and for only the fourth time in 13 starts this season. The Rangers will stay with him. They have limited options unless they want to bring in Matt Harrison or Dustin Nippert out of the bullpen.

Derek Holland and Brandon McCarthy, the Rangers' best options now that Tommy Hunter has been called up, are on the disabled list. The best right now at Oklahoma City are Michael Kirkman (6-1, 3.17 ERA), Guillermo Moscoso (3-2, 3.80 ERA) and Doug Mathis, who was 1-1 with a 4.29 ERA before giving up six runs in five innings Friday.

"I'm not thinking about options," Washington said. "Why would I be thinking about options?"

The Rangers could get lucky and find a pitcher off the scrap heap. R.A. Dickey has won four straight for the Mets. Then there is left-hander Chris Narveson, who outpitched Harden to get the win for the Brewers on Friday.

He is with his fourth organization. He has been traded, picked up on waivers and signed to a Minor League organization. He was once the player to be named later. But the Brewers put him in the rotation and cut loose Jeff Suppan, who was making $12.5 million this season.

In his first start against the Rangers, Narveson held them to two runs in a career-high seven innings.

The Rangers had never faced him before, but as Washington said, "You see a lot of pitchers you've never seen before.

"Not taking anything away from the guy ... he threw seven innings and gave up two runs. But if we saw him again, it would be different. He had good breaking ball and spotted his fastball down in the zone. Give the kid credit."

The Rangers were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position on the night. The Brewers were 0-for-1. That's not a big deal when you hit four home runs.

"If Rich had got the ball down and made pitches, it might have been a different story," Washington said. "The ballpark was playing small tonight."

But, Harden said, "It really doesn't matter. You've still got to make pitches."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.