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Baseball Today March 27

Baseball Today March 27

Associated Press

Harden carries Athletics to a split in Japan

He allows three hits and strikes out nine in a 5-1 victory over the Red Sox.

Split two games, get back on a plane.

Rich Harden struck out nine over six innings and Emil Brown hit a three-run homer, leading the Oakland Athletics to a 5-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night in the finale of their season-opening series in Tokyo.

"Last night we lost a heartbreaker. We won tonight. Now everyone's looking forward to getting back to the Bay Area and recovering," Oakland Manager Bob Geren said.

Boston began its World Series title defense by winning Tuesday's opener, 6-5, in 10 innings after rallying in the ninth. The Red Sox headed to Los Angeles for three exhibitions against the Dodgers, including one at the Coliseum on Saturday.

"We'll take a step back tomorrow and have an optional workout," Manager Terry Francona said. "We tried to do our homework on what to expect from travel. We're not going to talk ourselves into being tired, and we'll do what we need to do to get ready for the next start in Oakland."

The Red Sox and A's resume their regular seasons with a two-game series starting Tuesday in Oakland.

No team has swept a season-opening series in Japan.

Harden (1-0) helped the A's gain something from the trip. He is coming back from three injury-plagued seasons, and he made only four starts last year -- none after July 7. This time, the right-hander gave up three hits and three walks.

Oakland built a 4-0 lead against Jon Lester (0-1) while Harden shut down the Red Sox. He gave up Boston's only run in the sixth on a homer by Manny Ramirez, who struck out in his first two at-bats.

David Ortiz was 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a walk against Harden. Coming in, Ortiz was four for five against Harden, and Ramirez was two for three, each homering twice.

"Rich showed tonight against the world champions how good he is and how much we need him," Geren said. "His entire spring training went well with no health issues. We're hoping to get 30-plus more starts like that."

New York Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, recovering from back spasms, threw 36 pitches during a 10-minute bullpen session and remains on target to start the third or fourth game of the regular season.

Pettitte originally was to start the second game against Toronto on Tuesday.

Right fielder Alex Rios, 26, and the Toronto Blue Jays are close to a six-year contract extension through 2014 that would guarantee him about $65 million. The deal might include a 2015 option that could make it worth about $80 million.

Touted pitching prospect Homer Bailey was optioned to triple-A Louisville by the Cincinnati Reds.

The 21-year-old former first-round pick has been effective in the minors but has struggled in the majors. In his last spring training start Monday, Bailey walked six in 4 1/3 innings, throwing only 42 strikes out of 84 pitches.

Right-hander Ramon Ramirez, 26, was acquired by the Kansas City Royals from the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named.

The Royals also traded outfielder-first baseman Justin Huber, 25, to San Diego for a player to be named.

The Chicago Cubs released infielder Alex Cintron. Cintron had a rough spring. After having surgery on his right elbow during the off-season, he got hit on the right side of his face by a foul ball off the bat of teammate Mark DeRosa while waiting in the on-deck circle. . . . Washington Nationals catcher Johnny Estrada was put on the 15-day disabled list because of a right elbow injury. . . . Attorneys for baseball players and owners were close to an agreement on changes to toughen their drug rules, and the sides hoped to strike a deal by Sunday. . . . Masumi Kuwata, one of the top pitchers in Japanese baseball history and a major leaguer for the first time last season at 39, retired from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He turns 40 Tuesday.

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