As well as he has pitched for the Cubs since coming over from Oakland in a July trade, Rich Harden may be only the fourth starter in the playoffs should the Cubs make it.
Since the trade, Harden is 5-1 with a 1.66 ERA in 11 starts with the Cubs over 65 innings. He got a no-decision Thursday in the Cubs' 7-6, 12-inning victory over Milwaukee, which saw the Cubs reduced their magic number to clinch the National League Central to two.
Harden worked only five innings, largely because he ran his pitch count up to 115.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Harden's stuff has been good despite shoulder woes that have plagued him much of this year both with the A's and Cubs. The problem has been command.
In Thursday's game, Harden struck out seven but walked six.
"He threw the ball really well (Thursday)," Piniella told reporters after the game. "His command was off. I think you'll see him get sharper the next time out because now he'll be on (the) regular turn for five days. He had really good stuff. At one time, I think he had struck out five or six guys in a row.
"I think he had a 35-pitch first inning. I told (pitching coach) Larry (Rothschild), ‘We're going to be lucky to get five or six today.' But when you strike out people like he did and you walk people like he did, the pitch count is going to go up quickly and that's exactly what happened."
As of now, the Cubs' top three pitchers for the playoffs are Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster.
RF Kosuke Fukudome made only his fourth start in September and his first since Sept. 10. He went 0-for-3 and is now 2-for-21 (.095) this month. Piniella has been asked numerous times this week about Fukudome, who has struggled over the entire second half.
"I'm not using him right now," Piniella said on Wednesday.
CF Jim Edmonds was ejected during an at-bat in the 11th inning by plate umpire Ed Rapuano for arguing two called strikes.
"He thought that the pitches were outside and he got into a little war of words with the umpire. When that happens, the umpire usually wins," Piniella said.
Zambrano makes his first start Friday since pitching a no-hitter against Houston at Milwaukee on Sunday. Zambrano is 7-1 with a 3.08 ERA at Wrigley Field this year. Against the Cardinals, he's 9-5 with a 2.77 ERA for his career.
3B Aramis Ramirez extended his hitting streak to a season-high 10 games. He's hitting .450 (18-for-40) during the streak.
1B Derrek Lee singled home the winning run to beat the Brewers. It was Lee's 14th game-winning RBI this season, tying him for the team lead with LF Alfonso Soriano.
RHP Kerry Wood pitched two innings of relief for the victory. He has allowed a run in four of six September appearances.
Catcher Geovany Soto hit a game-tying 3-run homer in the ninth inning, his 23rd of the season. He has a hit in four of his last five games.
WGN-TV will re-air Zambrano's no-hitter against Houston beginning at 10 p.m. (CDT) Friday. The game will be broadcast both on WGN Chicago and WGN America.
Information from The Sports Xchange was used in this report.