68 pitches must have been the number tonight. With an early class tomorrow I left when Harden got done pitching to a less than crowded night at Des Moines' Principal Park. It was upper 60's, cloudy and somewhat on the cool side and that, along with the fact over 9,000 thoughthe was pitching Sunday, held the crowd down tonight. Many season ticket holders didn't even show. I got a single seat 11 rows behind the I-Cubs batters box for $10. Good seat.
Harden left the game in the 5th inning with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd. Of his 68 pitches, 43 were strikes and he recorded 6 strikeouts, all swinging. His pitch total by inning was 14-8-20-16-10. Only two pitches topped out over 90, one exactly 90 and one at 91. Harden featured a lot of off speed breaking pitches throughout the game.
The only trouble Harden had was in the 3rd. Solid single to right; slow infield hit past Miles for another single; sac bunt; solid RBI single to left; runners on 1st and 3rd and a stolen base to put both in scoring position. Harden walks the bases full (the first of two walks). On the next pitch a high pop fly to right field was the play of the game...So Taguchi caught the ball and threw an absolute strike to home preventing any tag up. Harden got ahead 0-2 with a 90 mph fast ball and ended the inning with another pop fly to right.
In a few other game notes Miles needs to stay in Des Moines. In his first plate appearance he flew out to right in foul territory and later struck out with the bases loaded. Taguchi drove in two runs (has everyone forgot about him?) with a double down the left field line and Dubois drove in two more in the same inning with a drive off the top of the right/center wall. Haren had a nice sac bunt on the first pitch he saw in the 4th.
There were 4 radar guns behind first base, which is common at I-Cubs games. What was not so common were two Cardinal scouts charting pitches, one in full Cardinal gear. He kinda stuck out. They were about 10 rows behind the radar guns.
It was a good night for Harden. He looked smooth and strong using many off speed pitches and little full out fastballs. While it was my first I-Cubs game of the season, I always walk away saying I need to get back soon. We have a nice ballpark with good promotions (tonight was $1 general admission, $1 popcorn and $1 pop), a fun time with every seat a good one. As I finish writing, Harden is probaably on his way to Houston.