Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Harang vs. Garza, Pt. 2 (Pt. 1 was fairly epic)

  Are we ready for Harang vs. Garza, Pt. 2? And before you dismiss or chuckle at that thought, please recall what happened when they met the first time.

Tonight is a rematch of one of the best-pitched games in the NL this season, the April 2 game in Milwaukee – the third game of the season -- when the Braves’ Aaron Harang and the Brewers’ Matt Garza each took a no-hitter to the seventh inning. Chris Johnson broke up Garza’s bid with a two-out homer in that 1-0 Braves win, and Harang had his no-hitter broken up by Logan Schafer’s leadoff single in the seventh.

Garza ended up allowing two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in eight innings, and Harang gave up two hits and one walk with three strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings in his first start as a Brave, setting the tone for a first eight weeks that have surpassed any and all expectations for the well-traveled veteran.

Against Garza, Johnson is 5-for-9 with two homers, Freddie Freeman is 4-for-10 with a homer, and Jason Heyward is 1-for-9 with a homer.

The Braves went 2-for-26 (.077) against Garza in the game at Milwaukee. All other teams have hit a combined .280 against him this season, and five of the seven teams he’s faced have batted .300 or higher against him.

After pitching eight innings against the Braves in his season debut, Garza hasn’t topped seven innings since. He’s worked a total of 21 innings in his past four starts, and gone 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in those games while allowing 23 hits and 11 walks.

  Garzais 0-2 with a 6.86 ERA in four road starts, compared to a 3.55 ERA in five home starts. Opponents have a .284 average and .357 OBP on the road.

Harang, meanwhile, has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six or more innings in all but one of his nine starts this season. Since giving up nine runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings on April 30 at Miami, in a game where several Braves wondered aloud whether the Marlins were stealing signs, Harang has given up two runs in six innings in each of his past three starts. He has 22 strikeouts and three walks in 18 innings over those three games.

In five home starts, Harang is 2-2 with a 2.10 ERA and no homers allowed. He has 40 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 innings at Turner Field this season.

Against the Brewers, he’s 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in five starts since the beginning of the 2011 season. Ryan Braun is 7-for-32 with three homers against Harang, Lyle Overbay is 11-for-25, Carlos Gomez is 2-for-7 with a homer, and Mark Reynolds is 2-for-12 with a homer and five strikeouts. Also, Jonathan Lucroy is 0-for-10 against him.

Harang will avoid facing Aramis Ramirez, who’s on the DL with a strained hamstring. Ramirez is 22-for-66 with five homers against the big right-hander.

• Pitch counts and such: So all this talk of pitch counts on the blog in the past couple of days, in light of Julio Teheran’s 128-pitch shutout Tuesday, had me curious enough last night to go back and look at some day-by-days of a few Braves pitchers. Included were the two guys whose names came up in relation to Teheran – Greg Maddux in 2011 was the last Brave to pitch multiple shutouts in a season before Teheran did it this year, and Steve Avery in 1992 was the last under-25 Brave to accomplish the feat before 23-year-old Teheran.

The other was Tom Glavine, since he’ll be inducted at Cooperstown along with Maddux in July, and since Glavine made it through almost his entire career without going on the DL. Those are the only three I looked up, since I was covering last night’s game at the time and didn’t have unlimited time to do this research.

Anyway, Glavine: He had starts of 128 and 124 pitches as a 23-year-old in '89, which was also his second full season in the majors, like this one is for Teheran. In a three-week span in '91, Glavine had pitch counts of 138, 104, 126, 85 and 129.

And how about this stretch in '92 for Glavine, his pitch counts in nine consecutive starts June 12-July 29: 128, 122, 84, 117, 107, 113, 108, 114, 121.

In ’94, Glavine had these pitch counts in a four-start period from July 20-Aug. 5: 130, 118, 126, 124, and he didn’t go more than 7-1/3 innings in any of those four.

In ’97, Glavine from May 30 to Sept. 10 made 20 starts and threw 121 or more pitches in half of them (and 119 pitches in one other). He threw 128 or more pitches  in five of those 20 starts.

In ’99, Glavine had consecutive starts of 134 pitches and 131 pitches on Aug. 15 and Aug. 20.

Next I looked up Avery's '92 season, and was surprised to see he only threw 118 and 114 pitches in his two nine-inning shutouts that year. But he had a 130-pitch game on May 30 and 123 pitches two starts later on June. 10. He went 8 innings in each of those two.

Maddux was a different animal, of course. Not much sense in looking up the day-by-days for one of the most efficient pitchers in baseball history. It was nothing for him to throw a complete game in under 100 pitches.

But it is worth noting that in that '01 season, Mad Dog finished with 233 innings in 34 starts, and get this: 173 strikeouts and 27 walks. Yes, 27 walks. Oh, and he was 35 years old.

 • Speaking of Chris Johnson: This might be a good time for him to face Garza and try to snap out of another recent funk. After ending a long slump by going 15-for-34 (.441) during a nine-game stretch May 6-16, he’s 1-for-21 with one double, no walks and eight strikeouts  in his past five games.

Johnson was 8-for-48 (.167) with no extra-base hits or RBIs in his last 14 games on the other side of his nine-game surge. So in his past 28 games since April 20, including two cold spells, one hot one and nothing in-between, he’s hit .233 with four doubles, no homers, five RBIs, four walks, 26 strikeouts and a .269 OBP and .272 slugging percentage.

For the season, Johnson’s walk rate of one every 34.4 plate appearances is fourth-lowest in the NL.

Sizzling J-Up:  Justin Upton is 8-for-14 (.571) with two doubles, three homers and seven RBIs in his past four games. In 23 home games this season he’s hit .400 (32-for-80) with six doubles, a majors-leading nine homers, 19 RBIs, .484 OBP and .913 slugging percentage. J-Up’s .972 OPS overall is fifth-highest in the NL behind Tulowitzki (1.217), Puig (1.037), Seth Smith (1.036) and Giancarlo Stanton (.988).

Braves lineup Thursday

  1. Heyward rf
  2. BUpton cf
  3. Freeman 1b
  4. JUpton lf
  5. Johnson
  6. Simmons
  7. Uggla 2b
  8. Laird c
  9. Harang p

• Etc.

B.J. Upton still leads the majors with 57 strikeouts despite not striking out in his past two games. He’s 2-for-20 in his past six games to lower his batting average to .197, fourth-worst among NL qualifiers and lowest among non-Padres. (Yes, San Diego has the league’s three lowest qualified batting averages in Jedd Gyorko .159, Yonder Alonso .195, Will Venable .196. That’s tough to do.)…When batting with two strikes,Braves Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman have the fifth- and sixth-highest averages in the Nl, Simmons at .281 (16-for-57) and Freeman at .280 (21-for-75).

• Here's a  great one from Marshall Crenshaw.

“WHENEVER YOU’RE ON MY MIND” by Marshall Crenshaw



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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.