MLB: Braves’ Harang comes close to tossing no-hitter
NEW YORK — In 1,347 starts for the Atlanta Braves, the trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz combined to carry a no-hitter into the seventh inning a grand total of three times.
Aaron Harang has now done it twice in four starts.
Harang’s unlikely career revival continued Friday night, when the right-hander threw seven no-hit innings before Luis Avilan surrendered the New York Mets’ only hit of the night in the eighth inning of a 6-0 win at Citi Field.
Harang will be the first to admit nobody will ever confuse him with impending Hall of Famers
Maddux and Glavine nor likely future Cooperstown inductee Smoltz, which is what makes his early-season performance for the Braves all the more impressive.
“God, you’ve got two guys who are going to the Hall of Fame this year — I grew up watching (them), I was fortunate enough to get to face and play against (them),” Harang said.
Harang, who was unsigned until Cleveland inked him to a minor league deal on Feb. 15, joined the Braves on March 24 — the same day he requested his release from the Indians after being told he wouldn’t make the team — and was expected to help replace Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen, each of whom underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in March.
After his subpar 2013 — Harang went 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA in 26 starts between the Mariners and Mets — it appeared as if Harang, who turns 36 in May, was only holding down a spot until Gavin Floyd (Tommy John surgery) and Mike Minor (left shoulder) could complete their rehab assignments.
But Harang has suddenly emerged as an indispensible member of the rotation. He improved to 3-1 on Friday, when he lowered his ERA to 0.70. He has allowed just nine hits in 25 2/3 innings.
He has also twice flirted with throwing the Braves’ first no-hitter in 20 years. In his first start of the season April 2, Harang tossed six no-hit innings against Milwaukee before allowing a pair of seventh-inning hits.
And on Friday, he went where Glavine never went — and Maddux and Smoltz only went once apiece — by completing seven no-hit innings. It wasn’t the most dominant no-hitter flirtation ever — Harang was lifted after walking six and throwing 121 pitches — but manager Fredi Gonzalez said the promise of more starts from Harang was more than enough to convince him to pull the right-hander two innings shy of history.
“I’m pulling for him, I want to see him throw a no-hitter,” Gonzalez said. “But I think it got to a point where it’s like, man, you’ve got to worry about 25 more starts.”
And 25 more chances to outdo Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz.