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A's phenom Harden earns no-decision in debut

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Even though he didn't win, Rich Harden
couldn't contain his joy.

Harden pitched seven sharp innings in his major league debut,
and the Oakland Athletics went on to beat the Kansas City Royals
6-1 Monday night to stop a four-game losing streak.

"I was a little nervous at first," Harden said, "but once I
settled down, everything went pretty well."

The Athletics drew five straight walks with two outs in the
ninth to break a 1-all tie.

Harden, a much-heralded rookie, gave up one run and four hits.
He struck out four and walked two, and wound up with a no-decision.

"It was kind of tough coming into today, with the team having
lost four straight," he said. "But that didn't change my
gameplan. I still had to go out there and pitch, just like any
other game."

The 21-year-old righty started for the World team in the Futures
game during the All-Star break and struck out three in his lone
inning. He began this season by pitching 13 perfect innings at
Double-A Midland and later went 9-4 at Triple-A Sacramento.

"He was terrific," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "He needs
to work on a couple of things. He was tipping his pitches a little
bit, and I think they picked that up in the first inning. But his
stuff was so good it really didn't matter."

It was 1-all in the ninth when Oakland pinch-hitter Chris
Singleton lined a one-out single off Sean Lowe (1-1). After
Singleton stole second, Erubiel Durazo lined out.

Miguel Tejada took two balls and then was walked intentionally,
and Eric Chavez drew a four-pitch walk that loaded the bases.

Jason Grimsley relieved and Ramon Hernandez worked the count
full, fouling off one pitch before walking to force home the
go-ahead run. Scott Hatteberg followed with a walk, finishing
Grimsley, and Royals manager Tony Pena was ejected for the second
straight day.

Grimsley criticized QuesTec, the machine that monitors
ball-and-strike calls by umpires. Catcher Brent Mayne said he
thought ball four to Hernandez was a strike, but the rest of the
pitches were called correctly.

"(QuesTec) has taken away from the game," Grimsley said. "I
don't think they should have machines at all. It's a game played by
men and judged by men. That's the human element."

Pena wouldn't say what he told plate umpire Derryl Cousins.

"It's over, and I don't want to talk about it," Pena said.

After Grimsley walked two batters, Nate Field relieved and
pinch-hitter Billy McMillon drew the fifth straight walk. Mark
Ellis finally put the ball in play, delivering a two-out single.

Ricardo Rincon (6-3) pitched a scoreless eighth to pick up the
win.

Kansas City starter Kyle Snyder matched Harden through seven
innings. He gave up one run on three hits, walking one and striking
out one. He retired 13 straight batters before Tejada singled with
two outs in the seventh.

"I thought he threw the ball well," Pena said. "I don't know
if we can ask these kids to pitch any better than he did tonight."

Harden wiggled out of a couple jams in the first six innings.

Carlos Febles singled with one out in the third and took third
on Aaron Guiel's single. But Guiel was thrown out trying to advance
to second on the throw to third, and Desi Relaford grounded out to
end the inning.

Ken Harvey reached on a three-base error by center fielder Eric
Byrnes with two outs in the fourth, but Harden retired Michael
Tucker on a groundout.

"He threw a great ballgame and was calm all the time, just like
he was pitching at Triple-A," catcher Ramon Hernandez said. "He
was showing no emotions at all. He was controlling himself. For
being a first start, he did an outstanding job."

The Royals scored in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Raul
Ibanez. Harden picked off Carlos Beltran at first to end the
inning.

"They've got a club that can rattle a young guy because of
their running game," Macha said. "Beltran got on and went right
away in the first inning, but after that he did all the things we
do to hold runners. He kept his poise."

Oakland scored off Snyder in the second. Tejada led off with a
double, moved up on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly by
Hernandez.

Game notes
Beltran stole his AL-leading 27th base. He has been
successful on his last 25 tries. ... The no-decision by Harden
broke a streak of four straight losses by Oakland starters. The
Athletics had not seen starters lose five straight since July
24-29, 1998.