MIAMI (AP) – There’s little doubt this three-game series between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins began with one of baseball’s most outstanding young pitchers on the mound.
But even Jose Fernandez can’t say he’s had an April as good as Aaron Harang.
Harang looks to finish off the best and most surprising month of his career Wednesday night in Miami when he matches up with Nathan Eovaldi and the Marlins for the second time in a week.
Fernandez capped his month by shutting down the Braves (17-8) for a second consecutive start in Tuesday’s 9-0 win, giving him a line of 16 scoreless innings and 22 strikeouts against Atlanta while lowering his ERA to 1.59.
“Jose did a great job,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “We needed him to go out there and log some big innings, and that’s back-to-back great starts against a great offensive team.”
Fernandez has allowed zero or one earned run in five of his six starts for Miami (12-14), but Harang (3-1, 0.85 ERA) has done that in all five of his while posting the lowest ERA in the majors. He struck out 11 Marlins over six innings last Wednesday before Atlanta broke a 1-all tie with two in the eighth to win 3-1.
“You don’t expect a pitcher to go up and give one run up or no runs,” shortstop Andrelton Simmons told the Braves’ official website. “I’m impressed and I’m happy (Harang) has been doing it. Hopefully, he keeps doing it the whole year. Hopefully, he’s that guy. You don’t expect that day in and day out. But it’s nice to see.”
The right-hander is holding opponents to a .143 average that’s baseball’s second-best behind Johnny Cueto and a .409 opponents’ OPS that’s by far the best in the majors. Harang posted a 6.42 ERA and allowed 11 homers over 47 2-3 innings last August and September, but he’s now the first pitcher to allow one or fewer runs while going at least six innings in his first five starts since Pedro Martinez in 1997.
“You always hear them say the next time out, the guy is not going to be as efficient,” Harang said. “I didn’t even think about it. It was just another start for me, and I’m just out there trying to give us a chance to win.”
Eovaldi (1-1, 2.87) has done a decent job of that in all five of his starts this season, but he’s done exemplary work in that regard against Atlanta. The right-hander gave up one unearned run in six innings and struck out seven against the Braves last Wednesday, lowering his ERA to 0.51 in his last five starts in this series.
“I was able to work the fastball on both sides of the plate,” Eovaldi told the Marlins’ official website. “The slider was good. I was able to throw some changeups and curveballs in there towards the end of the game.”
Eovaldi has especially kept Freddie Freeman off balance. The Braves’ first baseman is 3 for 17 in their matchups.
Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn’t start last week against Harang, but he continued his impressive first season in a Miami uniform Tuesday. The one-time Braves catcher went 3 for 4 with a homer and a double, the third time in his last four games he’s gone deep.
Saltalamacchia’s .959 OPS is among the 15 best in baseball and leads all catchers with at least 75 plate appearances.
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