Flushing, NY—Aaron Harang has found new life in his right pitching arm in his 13th major league season. The 35 year-old signed a one year contract with the Braves on March 24. He pitched for the Cleveland Indians early in Spring Training, but did not remain with the club. He recalled, “I worked that hard all off-season, hoping a team would call.”
His four starts with the Braves this season have been outstanding. He has been very stingy with opposing batters, yielding only nine hits and two earned runs in 25.2 innings. He earned a decision in each of his starts, compiling a 3-1 mark.
In his first start of the season on April 2 against Milwaukee, the veteran hurler did not give up a hit in the first six frames, but yielded two in the seventh.
He topped that performance in his most recent start on Friday night at Citi Field against the Mets. He obtained vengeance against the only club he bowed to in April. On April 8, he surrendered only one run to New York, but received the loss because the Braves were blanked. Not one Mets batter hit safely against Harang in his seven innings on the mound on Friday night. Interestingly, Harang was on the Mets pitching staff in September of 2013.
On Friday, his wildness, which resulted in his issuing six walks, forced him to throw 121 pitches in his seven innings. Two of the walks came in the sixth and two more in the seventh, which made his pitch count grow and resulted in his removal before the eighth inning began.
The decision to remove a starter hurling a no-hitter late in the game is always controversial as it eliminates the possibility of that pitcher achieving one of the sport’s rare milestones.
Both Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez and Harang spoke of the decision after the contest concluded. The manager explained his feelings as a fan, “I’ m pulling for him. You want him to get a no-hitter.” But he believed those feelings must be overridden by his responsibilities as the manager of a team.
Gonzalez expressed several reasons why he lifted Harang in the seventh, “He’s 35 years-old. I want him out there another 25-27 times [starts in 2014]. At the end of the day, you want to win.” He also explained that “it was in his [Harang’s] best interest” which he said the veteran hurler understood. The manager concluded, “I think we made the right decision. It wasn’t that tough a decision.”
The soft spoken, articulate and good humored pitcher, despite what was probably disappointment, was in agreement with his manager, “Looking at my best interest, [in the seventh] I got two outs with three pitches and then threw 22 more. If it was the eighth, I go back out there. You look back and appreciate the manager’s looking out for you.”
Harang’s understanding was deepened because on July 9, 2011 he was removed by the San Diego manager after pitching six no-hit innings, “ I went through it a couple of years ago in San Diego. I know how it works. I know it’s tough on him [manager].”
Despite their pitching rich history, the last time a Braves pitcher threw a no-hitter was April 8, 1994, when Kent Mercker threw one against the Dodgers.
Reliever Luis Avilan retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth, before Mets captain David Wright broke up the no-hitter with a sharp single to left. The Venezuelan struck out the next batter and Jordan Walden retired all three batters in the ninth.
Wright’s hit continued the Mets streak of not having been no-hit since September 8, 1993 intact. It also increased Wright’s current hitting streak to nine games.
The last multi-pitcher no-hitter thrown by the Braves was on September 11, 1991.
The two starters on Saturday night, Erviin Santana for Atlanta and Bartolo Colon for New York hope for the same success as Harang.