Harden: Mystery Man

Rich Harden (GETTY)

Right-hander Rich Harden was a mystery man for the Cubs on Wednesday in a 5-2 loss to the Rockies.

Harden was throwing the ball in the mid-90 mph range, and he struck out the side in the first inning. However, he threw 36 pitches in the second inning and a whopping 43 in the third, and he was out of the game.

Interestingly, eight of the nine outs recorded by Harden were strikeouts, giving him 18 in nine innings of work in his two starts.

However, it appeared to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, manager Lou Piniella and to Harden that he started rushing his delivery in the second inning.

"He started throwing instead of pitching," Piniella said. "That was Larry's explanation, because I asked him. He was just getting the ball and throwing it."

Harden admitted that he might have "lost purpose" after a 14-pitch at-bat by Garrett Atkins leading off the second. Atkins fouled off eight straight pitches, and the long at-bat apparently threw Harden off his game.

So far, Harden's historically bad right shoulder hasn't seemed to be a problem, and the Cubs don't appear overly worried about one blip on the radar.

ROCKIES 5, CUBS 2: Harden lasted just three innings, throwing 92 pitches and giving up four runs. Cubs batters did little with their former teammate, RHP Jason Marquis, who allowed them five hits and one run over seven innings. 1B Derrek Lee hit his first homer of the year for the Cubs in the ninth, but some bad baserunning killed a potential rally.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Rule 5 draft pick David Patton, a right-handed reliever, worked two scoreless innings Wednesday, striking out three. He has struck out five in four innings.

"He hasn't pitched much early in the year, but he came in and threw strikes," Piniella said.

--Harden suffered his first career loss at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. The three innings marked his shortest outing since he went 2 2/3 innings for Oakland on July 7, 2007.

--The Rockies broke a nine-game losing streak at Wrigley Field, where they had last won Sept. 30, 2006. The Pirates were the only team with a longer losing streak at Wrigley Field since 1954, suffering a 13-game losing streak there in the 1960s and two 10-game losing streaks there in the 1982-1983 and 1998-1999 seasons. Colorado's victory also broke a five-game losing streak against the Cubs.

--The Sports XChange

MINORS WATCH

ALBUQUERQUE 7, IOWA 4 (CLASS AAA)

At Albuquerque, N.M., the Isotopes rallied for five runs in the eighth inning for the win Wednesday. RHP Kevin Hart (0-1) was tagged for five runs in one-third of an inning while suffering the loss for Iowa (4-3). RHP Jose Ascanio started and received a no-decision after tossing four shutout innings for the second time in as many starts. He allowed three hits and one walk, and struck out four. 1B Jake Fox hit his fourth home run as part of a 2-for-4 night. He now has 15 RBIs through seven games.

BIRMINGHAM 6, TENNESSEE 2 (CLASS AA)

At Kodak, the Barons scored three first-inning runs off Tennessee (2-4) starter James Russell en route to the victory Wednesday. Russell (0-2) pitched four innings and allowed five runs and six hits. LHP Jeremy Papelbon was one of three Tennessee pitchers used in relief. Papelbon pitched 1 1/3 innings and allowed his first earned run since June 11 of last season. The Smokies were held to six hits.

DUNEDIN 3, DAYTONA 1 (CLASS HIGH-A)

At Daytona Beach, the Cubs (3-3) were held to three hits in the loss Wednesday. 3B Marwin Gonzalez went 1-for-4 to extend his hit streak to six consecutive games to open the season and is batting .391 (9-for-23). RHP Marcos Mateo started and tossed three scoreless innings, allowing a walk and one hit to go with five strikeouts in a no-decision. Daytona used four pitchers in relief with RHP Jake Muyco (0-1) suffering the loss. He allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings.

PEORIA 3, DAYTON 2 (CLASS-A)

At Peoria, the Chiefs (4-2) rallied past the Dragons to sweep the three-game series Wednesday. The Cubs' top prospect, 3B Josh Vitters, collected a season-high three hits and drove in the eventual game-winning run in the seventh inning. 2B David Macias also grabbed three hits as Peoria collected a season-high 12 hits total. RHP Aaron Shafer (2-0), Chicago's 2008 second-round draft pick, started and went seven innings. He allowed one earned run and six hits to go with a walk and a career-high seven strikeouts. Shafer retired 10 consecutive batters at one point.

--Staff Reports

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