A's Win In Extras; Hold Breath On Harden

The euphoria in the A's clubhouse after Wednesday's game was tempered by the premature departure of ace Rich Harden from the game, and the knowledge that he was flying back to Oakland for an MRI instead of going to Kansas City with his teammates.

Rich Harden felt the right side of his back tighten up while issuing a walk to Hank Blalock with one out in the fourth inning. Harden, who struck out six of the first nine batters he faced, didn't deny he was still in pain as he talked to reporters after the game.

In September 2003, Harden missed a start due to back spasms. He was on the disabled list twice last year with injuries near the back: his left oblique and right lat (just below the shoulder).

"I know everybody is hoping that Harden will be OK," reliever Justin Duchscherer said. "To me, he's our stopper. We need him to get healthy as quickly as possible."

The first time Harden went on the disabled list, the A's were 1-5 in games started by subs Seth Etherton and Ryan Glynn. The second time, they were 2-6 in games started by Joe Kennedy.

When Harden departed the game, his teammates were in the dark about what was wrong with their star pitcher.

First baseman Dan Johnson came running up to the clubhouse after the half-inning to find out for himself.

"It was a weird thing, none of us in the field knew what was going on," Johnson said. "We thought maybe since he barehanded (the ball), that's what it was."

Harden knocked down a comebacker with his right hand the batter before, but said "my hand is fine" and showed reporters.

Perhaps when he picked up the ball and quickly threw to first it twisted his back, but Harden wasn't sure what led to the back spasms.



REPLAY:

Dan Johnson tied the game in the ninth inning for the second time in less than 24 hours off Rangers closer Francisco Cordero, hitting a solo home run Wednesday after hitting a run-scoring double Tuesday night.



Jay Payton's two-run single in the 10th, his first RBIs of the year, gave the A's the lead. Joe Kennedy escaped a bases-loaded jam in the 10th for his second career save, as the A's held on for a 6-4 win.



Wednesday's Notebook

--DH Frank Thomas passed Gary Sheffield
for the third time this year on the all-time home run list, hitting his 453rd Wednesday, which also moved him past Carl Yastrzemski for sole possession of 27th place. Sheffield then caught Thomas later in the evening. The solo home run gave him his 1,475th RBI, which ties him with Ted Williams for 46th place.

--RHP Huston Street (right pectoral strain) threw 25 pitches, all in his repertoire, off the mound before Wednesday's game. He probably will be available Friday in Kansas City.

--RHP Esteban Loaiza's 45-pitch bullpen session pleased pitching coach Curt Young, and the A's believe he'll be able to make his next start Saturday, but they won't know for certain until Friday. Loaiza had been suffering from back and neck pain.

--RHP Joe Blanton could pitch Saturday on normal rest due to Thursday's off day, if RHP Esteban Loaiza (back and neck pain) can't pitch.

--RF Milton Bradley let it be known he could play, but he had some swelling in his right knee, so the A's thought it would be better to give him 48 hours of rest and let him return Friday. It was Bradley's first day off this year. Bradley suffered a slight knee sprain sliding back into first base on a pickoff attempt by Rangers C Rod Barajas on Tuesday night.

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