The Cubs got their 1st victory against the Padres at Petco Park in San Diego in 2009 last night behind a dominant performance from Rich Harden. Harden threw 7 scoreless innings, holding the Padres to just 1 hit and 3 walks. The Padres had 3 batters reach base in the 1st inning but didn’t score, and Harden was “lights-out” after that. Harden struck out 8 batters on the night and improved his record to 8-7. He is 3-1 after the All-Star Break with 3 no decisions, and he has not allowed more than 2 ER in the 7 starts.
The Cubs will have a big decision to make with respect to Harden in the off-season. Harden has already made 21 starts during the 2009 MLB schedule and should get at least another 7 starts before the end of the year. That would put him at 28 starts. Health has always been a concern with Harden and except for a brief stint on the DL from May 17th – June 13th, has not missed any time because of injury. That being said, he has made 30 starts only once in his career – that was back in 2004 when he threw 189 2/3 innings in 31 starts. The following season he pitched 128 innings in 19 starts (22 appearances) and he missed good portions of the 2 seasons after that with arm issues. It will be interesting to see how he feels in the off-season. When Harden is on – like he was last night and in the 2nd half of the year so far – he is a dominating pitcher that can win a lot of games. It could be worth signing him to a 2-3 year deal, but more than that could be risky. Harden’s off-season regimen in Arizona seems to have paid off big time in 2009. Assuming he continues to work hard in the off-season, it may be worth the shot to try to sign Harden to a long-term deal before he hits the free agent market…
The Cubs offense finally showed up last night as well. Milton Bradley and Aramis Ramirez each hit home runs. Ramirez also had a 2-run double in the 3rd inning and had 3 total RBI’s. Bradley also walked 3 times and scored twice. Ryan Theriot had 2 hits, 2 runs scored and a stolen base. They did strike out 13 times as a team, however, leaving 14 runners on base.
The Cubs have their work cut out for them over the next 4 games against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The 1st place Cards took 2 out of 3 games from the Dodgers this week and now move on to the lowly Padres. Not taking advantage of winning the Padres series has put them 6 games behind the Cards and 5 games behind the Rockies for the NL Wild Card lead. It is going to be an uphill climb, as Tom Gorzelanny looks to get the Cubs off to a good start tonight against Jeff Weaver and the Dodgers. The Cubs will finish the 4-game weekend series with Randy Wells, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster.