When the Cubs acquired Rich Harden from Oakland two weeks ago, there were reports he hadn't been throwing as hard as usual.
But with the Cubs, the 26-year-old Canadian has looked more like a Ferrari being driven away from the dealership than damaged goods. He has had plenty of velocity on his fastball, just not enough luck.
Harden matched zeros with future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson on Monday night, taking a perfect game into the fifth inning and a no-hitter into the sixth. But Alex Romero lined a 1-2 changeup over the right-field fence for his first career home run, and Harden would depart trailing the Arizona Diamondbacks 1-0 in the seventh inning en route to a 2-0 defeat.
The 44-year-old Johnson was masterful, allowing two hits in seven innings to improve to 13-0 lifetime against the Cubs. Micah Owings and Chad Qualls completed the two-hitter..
"That's the game,'' Harden (0-1) said. "Randy pitched a great game. I made one bad pitch.''
Johnson was hit harder than Harden, with Jim Edmonds and Aramis Ramirez driving balls to the warning track and center fielder Chris Young running down two other drives, but Edmonds' third-inning single was the only hit by the Cubs that left the infield.
A ninth-inning rally built around a walk and an error fizzled, prompting Cubs manager Lou Piniella to say he planned to cancel batting practice the next two days. He did that Sunday in Houston, and the Cubs won 9-0.
"We're just going to stretch and play,'' Piniella said. "I'm tired of seeing the ball flying all over the place in batting practice and then nothing in the game.''
Harden, working on eight days' rest since his Cubs' debut at Wrigley Field, struck out seven of the 12 hitters he faced in the first four innings, and finished with 10 strikeouts in seven innings, allowing only the Romero homer. He hit his spots with fastballs that ranged from 91 to 95 m.p.h.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first Cub since 1900 to register double-figure strikeouts in his first two starts for the franchise. But the Cubs couldn't get to Johnson
In his two starts, Harden has given up six hits and struck out 20 over 121/3 innings. He has been stuck with a no-decision and a loss.
"He's been lights-out,'' Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said. "It's a shame we can't win that game for him. You can't be much better than he was tonight.''
Alfonso Soriano was on hand but not on the active roster. He had lobbied in favor of playing a day-night doubleheader, but failed to convince Piniella to take him off the disabled list after playing against the rawest prospects in a rookie league game Monday morning.
Soriano, who went on the disabled list June 12, was 0-for-2 with one walk and one strikeout in a 6-3 win for the Cubs over San Diego's rookie team in nearby Peoria. Unlike the big-league game at air-conditioned Chase Field, it was played outside, in searing hit.
"Oh,'' Soriano said. "I took some swings and my head was spinning. It was too hot.
"I'm very happy I have no pain in my hand," said Soriano, who has been on the DL since June 12 with a broken left hand. "I'm happy that I'm available for them. I think they want to see me play one of two more times.''
Soriano likely will play Tuesday night for Triple-A Iowa in Tucson, and could be activated Wednesday, with Arizona starting left-hander Doug Davis.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times