Even in the middle of the 2013 season, his worst year as a big league pitcher, Aaron Harang was capable of putting together a few dominant pitching performances — although they did come against the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres.
The veteran starter took the mound for the Mariners on May 27 last season with an ugly ERA (8.58) and diminishing strikeout numbers only to pitch a complete game shutout — allowing just four hits and striking out eight — against the Padres. Two weeks later, he threw a two-hit complete game shutout against the Astros.
It was his best stretch in a forgettable campaign, but it did prove that, in the right situation, he can still get major league hitters out.
The Braves provide a pretty good situation for pitchers with a strong bullpen (to help get out of jams) and one of the leagues top defenses (tied third in defensive runs saved through three games; finished sixth-best last season), and Harang took advantage of both in his Atlanta debut. He went 6 2/3 innings allowing just two hits and zero earned runs. There were some standout defensive plays and reliever Luis Avilan helped to get him out of a runners-on-the-corners jam, but it was an impressive start for a guy generally viewed as a stop-gap until the team gets Mike Minor, Ervin Santana and Gavin Floyd into the mix. Could the 35-year-old handle a rotation spot for the remainder of the season? Would there be a benefit in naming him the fifth starter and keeping Alex Wood and David Hale out?
Harang’s strong performance will not easily be replicated — after all, he’s been worth just 3.4 WAR in his 612 innings since 2010 — but he sure seemed to win over some of his teammates, especially catcher Gerald Laird, with his control and confidence, so perhaps this is an addition that can pay off beyond the first month of the season. Either way, one game into the evaluation period, it looks like general manager Frank Wren made
All told, the Braves are right back near the top of baseball’s team ERA leaderboard, ranking fourth after allowing just four earned runs in 26 innings pitched. So … strong pitching, excellent bullpen and all-or-nothing offense. Sound familiar? Our writers offer their thoughts on the first series: