MILWAUKEE (AP) - At least in his first start, Aaron Harang came through with what the Atlanta Braves were hoping for when they signed him late in spring training.
After spending most of the exhibition season with Cleveland on a minor league contract, Harang signed with the Braves on March 24 after a series of injuries to the team’s pitchers. Making his Braves’ debut, Harang matched Matt Garza’s no-hit bid into the seventh inning Wednesday, when Chris Johnson homered with two outs and sent the Braves to a 1-0 victory.
“It’s a huge pickup for us,” Johnson said. “We were struggling with having guys go down, and we’re going to struggle getting guys healthy and to have a performance like that. it’s just what we needed.”
After season-ending injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, the Braves signed Harang and Ervin Santana. Given how good Garza was in his Brewers’ debut, Harang had little margin for error.
“I looked up there after six and saw zeroes all the way across on both sides,” Harang said. “I was just able to come out and keep them off balance and keep their team guessing. Then you see their guy throwing up numbers like that, and you’re trying to do the same thing and give your team a chance to win. I was able to do that.”
Harang (1-0) didn’t allow a hit until Logan Schafer grounded a single leading off the bottom of the seventh. He gave up two hits in 6 2-3 innings, struck out three and walked one, throwing 63 of 97 pitches for strikes.
“After the first hit, the emotions just run out of you for a minute, but knowing that you’ve got a 1-0 lead you’ve got to stay in there and regain your focus and keep executing pitches,” Harang said. “The bullpen was able to get me out of that jam and slam the door.”
Relievers Luis Avilan, David Carpenter and Craig Kimbrel held the Brewers hitless. Kimbrel got three outs for his second save, completing a two-hitter.
“Any time you get a 1-0 win, all kudos goes to the pitching staff,” Johnson said. “He was fun to play behind. He was throwing strikes on both sides of the plate.”
Harang retired his first seven batters before walking Lyle Overbay, then retired 10 in a row before Schafer’s single.
This marked the first time both starting pitchers in a big league game had not allowed a hit through six innings since June 13, 2010, when Ted Lilly of the Cubs and Gavin Floyd of the White Sox accomplished the feat, according to STATS. Alfonso Soriano doubled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and scored on Chad Tracy’s single, and Lilly didn’t allow a hit until pinch-hitter Juan Pierre’s leadoff single in the ninth. The Cubs won 1-0.
Garza (0-1) made his first start for Milwaukee after signing a $50 million, four-year contract as a free agent. He allowed one run and two hits in eight innings, struck out seven and walked none, throwing 65 of 90 pitches for strikes.
“It’s one mistake and that’s it. It’s the big leagues,” Garza said. “You’ve got to pay for things like that, especially with the heater to the four-hole hitter.”
NOTES: The Braves have scored five of their six runs via four homers … Garza hit a dribbler in front of the plate in the sixth that Harang fielded cleanly and threw to first for the out. Gomez followed with a drive down the left-field line that hooked foul, then struck out. … Jason Heyward’s diving catch of a Ryan Braun liner to right in the fourth kept Harang’s no-hit bid intact. … The Brewers start a six-game trip Friday to Boston and Philadelphia. … The Braves have Thursday off, then are at Washington on Friday in the Nationals’ opener.
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