Oakland A's Notes: Haren Comes To Rescue

One of the great things about talking to Dan Haren is that he thinks like a fan, has the emotions of a fan, and speaks passionately about big games and big moments.

Never was that more evident than Wednesday, when he admitted to watching Tuesday's victory slip away from a hotel room, and unable to sleep because of it, woke up Wednesday morning with adrenaline raging through his body.

Dan Haren pitched the game of his life, giving up three hits in eight shutout innings, and then watched closer Huston Street secure a 1-0 victory over the Twins to prevent a sweep.

"It was a game we had to win," Haren said.

"Everybody knew that. I especially knew it. I couldn't stop thinking about this game. I had so much adrenaline. It just felt like a playoff game with the atmosphere. It was a game we had to have. I had to make a difference. I had to have my best stuff. There was no other way to do it." It wasn't a pretty road trip, but the A's avoided a sweep here and went 3-3 overall, including two wins by Haren.

The A's landed in Oakland with a 5 1/2 lead as the Angels lost to Chicago later Wednesday. Their magic number is 12.

A's manager Ken Macha admitted that's one of the toughest decisions: stick with a starter throwing a shutout; or go to closer Huston Street, who in this case, labored in two outings since coming off the disabled list.

"It's hard to take a guy out with a shutout," said Macha, who conferred with pitching coach Curt Young, and both wanted Street. "Danny really answered the call. We had Huston rested."

Haren (14-11) admitted he wanted the ball, but knows that is Street's job. Street wanted the ball too, but would have understood if Haren finished it himself.

Street rewarded his manager's confidence with a 1-2-3 ninth -- hitting 92-93 mph, by far his best since returning -- for his 32nd save.

"This was a big game for us," Street said. "Everybody had a little added incentive."

REPLAY: Dan Haren was at 101 pitches after eight shutout innings in a 1-0 game. He allowed three hits and one walk, but was replaced by Huston Street. The closer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to secure the 1-0 win over the Twins and avoid a sweep.

Jay Payton's ground-rule double in the sixth scored Milton Bradley with the A's only run. Bradley reached second on a delayed steal in which replays appeared to show he was out.

Thursday's Notebook

--The A's Low-A affiliate, Kane County, dropped the second game of their best-of-five Championship Series on Wednesday to West Michigan, by a score of 4-3. The series is knotted at a game a piece. Chad Boyd had a lead-off homer and went 3-4 with two runs scored, but it wasn't enough against Cameron Maybin and the Whitecaps. Joe Piekarz struck out six in 7.1 innings, but allowed four runs and was stuck with the tough-luck loss.

--C Jason Kendall started his 24th straight game Wednesday, but after Thursday's off-day, the A's play 17 straight games to end the year. A's manager Ken Macha said Kendall wouldn't start them all.

--RHP Rich Harden took another positive step in his rehab from a sprained elbow in Wednesday's side session. Harden incorporated sliders and changeups among his 30 pitches, and was pleasantly surprised at how the slider felt, saying it was as good as it has been in years. Harden's next step is a simulated game Saturday that should last about four innings and 60-something pitches. He could start against Cleveland at home on Wednesday or Thursday if all goes well.

--LHP Barry Zito would start the final regular season game at Anaheim, if needed, or start Game One of the Division Series on six days' rest, based on how the rotation is setup now.

--RHP Matt Roney cleared waivers and was re-assigned to the minors. He will be a free agent this off-season. He signed a free agent deal with Oakland this off-season.

--LF/1B Nick Swisher went 9-for-20 with seven walks on the A's six-game road trip and he has his batting average back in the mid-.250s after a number of weeks with the average in the .240s.

BY THE NUMBERS: 35 -- The number of innings thrown by Rich Harden this year.

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