NEW YORK --Aaron Harang delivered seven solid innings and guided the Braves to a much-needed 3-1 win at Citi Field. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and spared the visitors the embarrassment of being swept in a four-game series against the Mets for the first time since 1989.
With just one more series left before the All-Star break, the Braves needed to regain some of the momentum they had generated during the nine-game winning streak they had produced immediately in front of this four-game skid. They are now once again tied with the Nationals for first place in the National League East race.
Recognizing the importance to stop the bleeding and also get his closer on the mound for the first time since Friday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez gave Craig Kimbrel a chance to notch the fourth four-out save of his career. Kimbrel proved up to the task as he stranded two inherited runners in the eighth and then worked a perfect ninth inning.
Proving yet again that veteran poise can serve as an adequate substitute for dominant stuff, Harang scattered four hits and pitched around four walks while allowing just one run. As he navigated his way through this 104-pitch, seven-inning effort, he preserved the the two-run advantage the Braves gained courtesy of the key hits Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward delivered in the first inning.
Freeman's double off the right-field wall scored Andrelton Simmons from first base and also put him in position to score when Heyward further frustrated Bartolo Colon by blooping an opposite-field RBI single into shallow left field.
The Braves had totaled just two runs against the previous four starting pitchers they had faced. But this rough opening was quite familiar to Colon, who has now allowed multiple runs during the first inning in each of his past three starts.
Freeman added a third-inning single that helped produce an insurance run. David Wright's third-inning RBI single accounted for the Mets' only run. Harang responded by wisely pitching around Wright during the fifth inning that concluded with Travis d'Arnaud flying out to center with the bases loaded.
When the Braves lost two straight games to complete a four-game split against the Nationals in June, Harang took the hill in the next game and delivered six strong innings against the Astros. His effort led to the first of the 11 wins Atlanta notched in a 12-game span that concluded this past Saturday.
If the Braves extend their momentum through this weekend's series against the Cubs, they can once again thank Harang, who has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 19 starts with Atlanta.
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt