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Rich Harden, The Prince Of Darkness: Cubs vs. Phillies Preview, Tuesday 7/21, 6:05 CT

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Back in 2001, a number of us hung the nickname "The Prince of Darkness" on Fred McGriff, after the Cubs acquired him and he complained about all the day games. (Might have had a point, too -- in his only full season as a Cub, McGriff posted a .935 OPS in night games, only .780 in day games.)

Now we learn that Rich Harden may have the same issue. Harden is 30-14, 3.16 at night and 17-12, 3.83 in day games in his career and this year, the splits are even more extreme: 5-1, 2.41 at night, 1-5, 7.38 in the sunshine. Why it took them so long to do this I'm not sure, but Paul Sullivan reports in the Tribune that the Cubs are going to adjust Harden's rotation spot to take advantage of this:

Harden will start Tuesday night in Philadelphia, then not pitch again until Monday against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field, although that, at least, is a night game.

That would put him on pace to pitch again the following Saturday night in Miami.

"We're going to try to accommodate that [quirk] as much as we can," manager Lou Piniella said. "If we have an injury or something, we can't do anything about it."

The "Wrigley Field" comment above is a reference to Harden's 2-5, 7.59 ERA at home this year. Harden has pitched nine home games this year -- two of them at night. In the home night starts he's 2-0, 3.00 (12 innings pitched, 3 walks, 13 strikeouts). In home day games he's 0-5, 9.39.

This should be a no-brainer, then, for the rest of the year. There may be no reason in particular for this, but if Harden does better in night games and on the road, then do what it takes to get him slotted in those situations only -- it will be the best use of his talent.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Rich Harden
Rich Harden
Cubs
vs. Joe Blanton
Joe Blanton
Phillies
6-6 W-L 6-4
5.06 ERA 4.44
90 SO 91
36 BB 33
16 HR 19
vs. Phi -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Rich Harden 6-6 16 15 0 0 0 0 80.0 81 50 45 16 36 90 5.06 1.46


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Joe Blanton 6-4 17 17 0 0 0 0 103.1 109 51 51 19 33 91 4.44 1.37

Joe Blanton has one career start vs. the Cubs, August 29, 2008 at Wrigley Field; he threw 5.2 innings and gave up a pair of runs in a game the Cubs eventually won 3-2 on a HR by Alfonso Soriano off reliever Clay Condrey. It might be a night to start Reed Johnson, who is 5-for-10 with a HR lifetime off Blanton.

Blanton's opponent last August 29 was, as tonight, Rich Harden. He gave the Phillies three hits and four walks and an unearned run in five innings. The Phillie he's faced the most from his time in the AL is Raul Ibanez (5-for-23, .217, 2 doubles, a HR).

The Cubs are on national TV today again -- this time, WGN. For other games today see the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Phillies site The Good Phight.

Overflow comment threads will post today at 7 pm, 8 pm and 8:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.