• Aaron Harang

    Harang avoids sweep, Braves fight for postseason berth

    In one of the most unusual seasons we have seen from the Braves in the last dozen years, the Braves continue to hang on to hopes of a postseason berth. At this writing, sitting 1 1/2 games out of the 2nd wild card slot. They are 8 games behind the rival Nats, a gap they did little to close in this week’s series against them. Despite one more series against the Nats this season, the calendar may run out without leaving the Braves enough time to catch up. That is unless the Nats suffer a collapse similar to the way the A’s have in their last 14 games in the American League.

    Freeman is 3 hits away from passing Matty Alou for the most hits in a single season against the Nats/Expos.

    Freeman is 3 hits away from passing Matty Alou for the most hits in a single season against the Nats/Expos.

    If there are bright spots to be found in the series loss to the Nats, the performances of Aaron Harang and Freddie Freeman are to be noted.

    Freddie Freeman may not hit against the Miami Marlins, but he hits and hits and hits some more against the Washington Nationals. In 2014, Freddie has hit .476 (30-for-63) against Washington with a whopping .778 slugging percentage. In his career, Freddie is a .329 hitter against the Nats. Freeman needs 3 more hits to match Matty Alou (1969) for the most in a single season against the Nationals franchise (what was the Expos). Freddie can certainly pass that mark with the final series against the Nats beginning on Monday.

    While Freddie’s numbers are down slightly from the career highs of the 2013 season, he has been one of the most dependable hitters on the club. Additionally, Freeman has made the case for his first gold glove.

    When the Braves faced the possibility of a sweep at the hands of the rival Nats, no player stepped up in a bigger way than veteran starter Aaron Harang. 7 innings, 1 unearned run with only 6 hits allowed and 9 strikeouts is exactly what the Braves needed from Aaron Harang who had struggled in his previous several starts.

    Of course, it didn’t hurt the Braves chances in the finale of the series to be facing Stephen Strasburg. The Braves have had Strasburg’s number all season. In 2014, Strasburg has made 4 starts against Atlanta. In those 4 starts he has posted a 7.17 ERA with 17 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings pitched. He allowed 3 runs to the Braves in 6 innings pitched before turning the game over to Jerry Blevins who also allowed 3 runs.

    The Nats have not announced the probables for the series at Turner Field when the boys return from Texas, but chances are very good that they’ll face Strasburg one last time this season.

    BRAVES MAKE RARE TRIP TO ARLINGTON…

    Presumably the Braves will have the services of Evan Gattis and Andrelton Simmons in Texas. Gattis, a Dallas native, has been out for several games with strep throat. Simmons was benched after his frustration at the plate was further dragging his numbers down and preventing him from helping the team in tough spots. In September, Simmons is hitting .129 with 7 strikeouts in 32 plate appearances. For a player that has previously been tough to strike out, Simmons’ strikeout numbers rising is cause for concern for the Braves.

    Evan Gattis is hitting .270 on the season, up from the .243 he hit in 2013 as a rookie in nearly as many games, but his numbers are down in the second half. Since August 1st, Gattis has hit .231 and is slugging only .423. He hit only .235 in his last 5 games before coming down with strep throat.

    Wood (10-10, 2.90) will take the mound vs. Holland (1-0, 0.64) in the series opener at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. Saturday’s matinee will pit Teheran (13-11, 3.00) vs. Baker (3-4, 5.52). Minor (6-10, 4.58) will wrap the series vs. Lewis (9-13, 5.29).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves end skid, Uptons set mark

    Beginning the weekend against the rival Washington Nationals, the Braves knew that they needed wins to keep pace in the NL East. A sweep could put the division out of reach going into the late days of August. However, the Braves stepped up and took 2 out of 3 from the Nats, placing themselves 3 1/2 games back in the division.

    After an 0-8 road trip, coming home to Turner Field is exactly what the struggling Braves needed. Getting to face Stephen Strasburg at the Ted helped their cause greatly, ending the losing streak and removing the monkey from their back.

    Stephen Strasburg had not given up 3 home runs in a game before Friday night’s home run derby off him when he didn’t give up just 3 dingers, he gave up 4. He has now given up a career high 18 homers on the season. Brothers Justin and B.J. Upton both hit 2-run blasts to dead center field. Then Freddie Freeman broke out of his slump to go yard off Strasburg. Then Tommy La Stella hit his very first big league home run. It wasn’t Strasburg’s night. Though it’s beginning to look like it is never Strasburg’s night when visiting the Ted. Against the Braves this year he has allowed 17 runs on 24 hits (5 of them homers). In his career at Turner Field, Strasburg has given up 7 homers and has allowed the Braves a .295 batting average against him. Strasburg left Friday’s game after 5 innings after giving up 7 runs on 7 hits and somehow striking out 9 batters.

    When the Braves signed B.J. and Justin Upton they certainly thought that there would be many a game when the two brothers went deep in the same game. It may have taken much longer to do it, but the Uptons have surpassed the record for the most times where two brothers went deep in the same game. With 5 such games, the Uptons now hold the record. There is now the possibility they put that record out of reach for any set of brothers to come.

    Justin Upton made some personal history of his own over the weekend. On his 21st homerun of the season, the younger Upton recorded his 1,000th hit and 500th RBI.

    For whatever reason, Major League Baseball had no qualms with the Braves beginning game 2 of the series after a 4 hour delay to the start due to rain. Despite the marathon delay, Aaron Harang pitched superb baseball but wasn’t helped out by his teammates who only managed 1 run in the 10 inning game that didn’t end until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

    The rubber match was a pitcher’s duel in every sense. Alex Wood stepped up and pitched as he had before being sent to the ‘pen earlier in the season and then down to Triple-A Gwinnett. Wood went 7 1/3 innings, gave up 1 run on 5 hits and struck out a personal best 12 hitters. After securing 2 additional runs in support of Wood, Kimbrel recorded his 34th save of the season.

    MIKE MINOR REJOINS ROTATION…

    As the Dodgers arrive in Atlanta, they have called up Kevin Correia to give their rotation an extra day rest. This means the Braves will luck out and miss both Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke this series.

    Due to 2 days off this past week, the Braves were able to give Mike Minor some extra rest, missing his spot in the rotation. He will rejoin the rotation this series and will face Dan Haren in game 2. Minor has struggled mightily this season, in no way looking like the pitcher he was last season. In 2013, Minor had a 13-9 record with a 3.21 ERA. This season he is 4-7 with a 5.42 ERA, including a stint on the DL with shoulder soreness.

    After turning his ankle in a weird event covering third base, Andrelton Simmons has been out of the lineup and off of his ankle hoping to avoid the disabled list. The Braves reported that Simba got treatment on the ankle most of Saturday and Fredi Gonzalez has said he would like to pencil Simmons into the lineup for Tuesday. Simmons will potentially test the ankle running Monday and barring any problems, will be in the lineup as Fredi wants. In the meantime, Emilio Bonifacio and Ramiro Pena have filled in for Simmons. Bonifacio has hit leadoff 4 of the past 6 games.

    The Dodgers send Correia (-,-) to the mound vs. Teheran (10-8, 2.92) tonight. Tuesday will feature Haren (9-9, 4.57) vs. Minor (4-7, 5.42). Wednesday’s game will pit Ryu (13-5, 3.21) vs. Santana (11-6, 3.69). And the finale of the series will send Hernandez (0-0, 3.00) to the mound vs. Harang (9-6, 3.31).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Bats cold in Big Apple, set for final series of half

    For the Braves, there are few things that sting quite like a series loss to the Mets. Unfortunately for Atlanta, losses within the division have come regularly in the first half of the season. If the Braves want to make a strong run for a division championship in the second half, there is no question that consistency and wins within the division will be paramount.

    Aaron Harang leads the Braves and all of the National League with an 0.85 ERA. He leads teammate Ervin Santana by .01.

    Aaron Harang leads the Braves and all of the National League with an 0.85 ERA. He leads teammate Ervin Santana by .01.

    The one person standing between the Braves and a sweep at the hands of the Mets was Aaron Harang. Harang has become some sort of escape artist in his last month of starts. In his last 5 starts, Harang gave up 43 hits in 33 innings, 16 earned runs, 12 walks to 16 strikeouts and 4 homers. Despite an overwhelming amount of hitting against him, Harang has a 4-1 record in that span while recording a 4.36 ERA. This week was no different when he went 7 innings, giving 4 hitters a free pass. Somehow he managed to get out of the start with only one earned run. Harang improved to a 9-6 record with a 3.53 ERA on the season.

    While the bats were cold and didn’t do much to help the cause of the starters, Freddie Freeman continued to own the Mets. Over the 4-game series, Freeman hit .417 in 17 at-bats. He had 7 hits, 2 of them doubles and drove 3 men in. In 13 games again the NL East rival this season, Freddie has a .392 average with 7 doubles, a homer and 13 RBIs. In his career, Freeman now has a .324/.394/.571 line against the Mets. By comparison, notorious Mets’ killer Chipper Jones hit .309 in his career against New York.

    Other than Freeman, there certainly weren’t too many hitting performances to highlight against the Mets. However, an under reported story is that of B.J. Upton in the lead off spot. In 16 games at the top of the lineup, B.J. has hit .279 with 19 hits, 2 doubles, 2 triples, a homer, 5 RBIs and 3 stolen bases. Batting second he was hitting .207 and a mere .171 when in the 6-hole. Of course, the problem with this is that it knocks Heyward out of the lead off spot where he has hit .254 on the season. In the 5-hole, Jason drops to .227 at the plate. The situation isn’t easily remedied for Fredi Gonzalez.

    In the series finale against the Mets, Craig Kimbrel was called on to get a 4-out save. These situations have been few and far between for the dominant closer and have bit the Braves in the playoffs. However, Fredi says that the more comfortable Kimbrel gets with those situations, the more likely Fredi would be to use him in a similar playoff situation. In his second 4-out save opportunity this season, Kimbrel didn’t allow a hit and had 1 strikeout.

    Julio Teheran had one of his worst and shortest outings of the season against the Mets. In 3 1/3 innings, newly selected all-star Teheran gave up 11 hits, 5 earned runs and struck out only 2 batters. His command was terrible and the poised starter we’ve seen really develop in 2014 was much less composed on the mound. Teheran will not pitch in the All Star Game, as the Braves announced, due to his Sunday start in Chicago.

    BRAVES WRAP FIRST HALF AGAINST CUBS…

    The Braves arrive at Wrigley Field after the best pitcher they had left via trade to Oakland. Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel were traded to the Cubs last week for a slew of prospects. Samardzija made the All-Star roster, selected in the National League and will represent in Minnesota wearing the NL jersey while sitting in the AL dugout. Joining Samardzija at the ASG are current Cubs Starlin Castro and Final Vote winner Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo edged out Atlanta’s Justin Upton in the NL Final Vote. Look for Justin to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder in Chicago.

    Games in Chicago will be a bit off the usual schedule due to the ASG festivities beginning over the weekend as well as the perfect atmosphere for day baseball at the Friendly Confines. Friday’s game will take place at 4:05 p.m. (ET), Saturday’s at 4:05 and the finale Sunday will start at 2:20.

    The opening game of the final series before the break will feature Wood (6-7, 3.14) vs. Arrieta (5-1, 1.78). Saturday’s game will pit Minor (2-5, 4.54) vs. Jackson (5-9, 5.05). And the series will wrap with Teheran (8-6, 2.57) vs. Wood (7-7, 4.64).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Pitching continues to be story of Braves’ April

    If it is possible to quantify what starting pitching has meant to the Atlanta Braves in April, you won’t find it in a simple series of

    Aaron Harang leads the Braves and all of the National League with an 0.85 ERA. He leads teammate Ervin Santana by .01.

    Aaron Harang leads the Braves and all of the National League with an 0.85 ERA. He leads teammate Ervin Santana by .01 ERA points.

    numbers. Sure, the Braves have a rotation with a combined 1.50 ERA in a total of 138 innings pitched. Sure, the late spring signees Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana have unexpectedly brilliant ERAs of 0.85 and 0.86, respectively. Sure, the young guns aren’t too bad, either. Alex Wood has a 1.54 ERA, Julio Teheran 1.80 and David Hale a still quite respectable 2.93. But there’s more to it than the numbers.

    Remember when Kris Medlen went down during spring training? Remember how everyone thought the Braves were in serious trouble? Remember when Mike Minor wasn’t going to be on schedule because of shoulder soreness and the league wrote off Atlanta? Remember how devastating it felt when Brandon Beachy followed with his Tommy John news and then Cory Gearrin? Take those feelings, those fears and then consider just what has been accomplished without Medlen, Beachy, Minor and Gearrin, not to mention the continued absence of Venters:

    • Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana have the first and second lowest ERA by starters in the National League.
    • 4 of the 5 current members of the starting rotation are in the top 10 in ERA in the National League (Harang, Santana, Wood, Teheran)
    • 2 starting pitchers are in the top 10 in the NL in strikeouts (Wood T-5th with 35; Harang 9th with 33).
    • Braves pitching is 1st in the league in team ERA (2.16).
    • Relievers Anthony Varvaro and Ian Thomas both have a 1.69 ERA in 5 1/3 innings each.
    • With slightly more work out of the ‘pen, Jordan Walden (8 1/3 innings) and David Carpenter (9 1/3 innings) have sub-3.00 ERAs, 2.16 and 2.89.
    • Though Craig Kimbrel missed a week, he has a respectable 3.24 ERA with 6 saves in 8 1/3 innings pitched. His 18 strikeouts are the most by any reliever.

    There has been a bit of history made in April, too. In his Wednesday start, Aaron Harang became the first pitcher to start a season with at least 6 innings pitched and 1 earned run allowed or fewer in 5 appearances since Pedro Martinez did it in 1997. Also on Wednesday, the Braves recorded 16 strikeouts, the most by pitching in a single game this season and the most they’ve had in a game since August 16, 2013. In his previous start when Harang left his no-hitter, he became only the 3rd pitcher since 1900 to exit multiple no hitters after 6+ innings pitched. On April 16th, Julio Teheran became the first visiting pitcher to ever throw a shutout at Citizens Bank Park. And Craig Kimbrel hit 900 batters faced in his young career with a unheard of 44% strike out rate (392).

    With a week to go in the month, the Braves are approaching big decisions in their staff with pitchers Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd returning from rehab stints. Instead of hoping to bridge to Minor and Floyd’s return, the Braves now look at which of the solid starters could potentially move to the bullpen and what they do with Gavin Floyd altogether. The likeliest option is for David Hale to join the ‘pen, but that, too, leaves out an arm in the ‘pen that has been useful. The Braves now face a problem they couldn’t have anticipated coming out of camp: too many arms. But as these things often go, they tend to work themselves out before a decision has to be made. It certainly is a better position to be in for Atlanta then the one they faced at the start of the season.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch

    Braves’ offense sweeps Nats, takes to road

    Nationals’ pitching brought with them to Turner Field 105 strikeouts in their first 9 games of the season. That kind of stat would generally foretell a tough series for Atlanta’s strikeout-prone lineup. That wasn’t the case. Braves’ offense lit up against the Nats, leading the team to a 3-game sweep against the rival ball club. The Braves outscored the Nats 23-11 in the series. The Braves has now won 22 of their last 29 meetings with the Nationals.

    JUpton (back of jersey) 320px

    Justin Upton has sizzled at the plate. Over the previous 4 games he has hit .786.

    Washington nor any team in baseball stood a chance of getting Justin Upton over a 3-game series. On the home stand, the younger Upton hit .591 with a 1.227 slugging percentage. He went 13-for-22 with 2 doubles, 4 homers and 8 RBIs. In addition to a stunning display of power with a game-tying homer in the late innings of Friday’s game, Justin Upton’s single scored the runner from 1st and won the game. He now has 7 game-ending hits since start of 2011 season. That is the most in the MLB for that span (his teammate Freddie Freeman has 6 game-ending hits). According to Elias, the last time the Braves won a game with a similar RBI single scoring a baserunner from 1st was in 1983.

    Upton is now hitting .386 with 17 hits, 2 doubles, 4 homers and 8 RBI in the first 12 games of the season. He is as locked in this April as he was last April. The hope is that he has simplified his pregame preparation to a point that will allow for this hot streak to cool, but not go completely cold like it did last season.

    Freedie Freeman came into the series against the Nats with a .419 average, on-base percentage of .514 and .677 slugging percentage in the first 9 games. He had gone 13-for-31 with 5 runs scored, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 5 RBIs, 6 walks and only 4 strikeouts. He added to that torrid offense against the Nats going 6-for-12 (.500) with 2 doubles, 2 homers and 5 RBIs. He is now 19-for-43 with a .442 average in the first 12 games of the season (4 doubles, 4 homers and 10 RBIs).

    The Braves saw production from nearly every hitter in the lineup, including the struggling Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton. Saturday’s game saw an unusual sight: B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla had run-producing hits in the same inning.

    In Saturday’s game, B.J. Upton produced hits in his first 2 plate appearances for just the 5th time since the start of last year. The series wrapped with B.J. putting together back-to-back multi-hit games. Dating back to last year, this marks the 3rd time B.J. has had multi-hit performances in consecutive games. He has now achieved the feat twice against the Washington Nationals.

    A few more notes on the series:

    • Two of the three HRs Alex Wood has allowed this year have been to the leadoff hitter. He only allowed 3 HRs in the 2013 season (77 2/3 innings pitched). Each of the 3 dingers in 2014 have come at the top of an inning, 2 of them on the first pitch. He then manages to settle in and has kept his ERA at 1.89.
    • In a scary moment at the plate, Gio Gonzalez plunked Freddie Freeman on the hand in the 4th inning. Freeman said that his choking up on the bat kept his hand from a serious injury. Freeman had homered in his previous at-bat against Gio. Strangely, it was the 1st time Gonzalez had hit a batter since he hit Freeman last August.
    • Atlanta pounced early this series with 14 runs during the first 2 innings of the 3 games played.
    • Aaron Harang had yet another brilliant start. It was his third straight game of going at least 6 innings and allowing 1 or no runs. Harang is now 2-1 with a 0.96 ERA.
    • Jason Heyward stole his third base of the season in Sunday’s finale. This is a great sign for the base-running game for the Braves because Heyward, with above-average speed, stole only 2 bases all of last season.
    • Andrelton Simmons had missed 2 games with a jammed wrist. Inserted as the 5-hole hitter, Simba hit a 3-run blast to dead center. It was the 1st homer on the season for Simmons, though earlier in the game he missed another homer by mere inches.

    BRAVES BEGIN 7-GAME ROAD TRIP…

    Saturday’s save for Craig Kimbrel, his 5th on the season, marked yet another perfect inning by the Braves’ closer. Kimbrel struck out the side in that outing. He has now faced 900 batters in his career and struck out 392 of them (an incredible 44% strikeout rate). All of this is important as we look ahead to the next several series because Kimbrel is now 10 saves away from tying John Smoltz’s franchise record of 154.

    The Braves are the eve of two pitchers returning from injury. Gavin Floyd, who hasn’t pitched in over a year due to Tommy John surgery, had another rehab outing this weekend at Gwinnett. Floyd threw 3 2/3 innings, giving up 2 hits, 2 runs (1 unearned), with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. Mike Minor, returning from shoulder inflammation, pitched 5 innings at Rome giving up 1 hit,  1 walk and no runs while striking out 4. The question will become who in the rotation loses their spot with the return of Floyd and Minor. At the moment, it appears the odd man out may be David Hale.

    Another injury update involves reliever Cory Gearrin. Gearrin has elected to have Tommy John surgery to repair the torn UCL in his pitching elbow. His surgery will take place Wednesday. He saw 3 different doctors for their opinion on his elbow and the advice was unanimous. The righty was pulled from a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers and had hoped to avoid surgery. Gearrin has put up 69 1/3 innings for the Braves over the last 3 seasons. Gearrin joins an unusually high number of pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery in the 2014 season including his teammates Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. Gearrin will be out for a year, if not more.

    The 4-game series against the Phillies will kick off Monday night with Ervin Santana (1-0, 0.00) vs. Roberto Hernandez (1-0, 4.35). Tuesday will feature David Hale (0-0, 2.89) vs. Cliff Lee (2-1, 5.50). Wednesday the Braves will send Julio Teheran (1-1, 2.84) to the mound against a pitcher to be named later. The series finale will pit Alex Wood (1-1, 1.89) against Jonathan Pettibone (0-0, 1.80).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves take opening series, on to DC

    With pitching, particularly starting pitching, the biggest concern for the 2014 Atlanta Braves, the opening series on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers showed a rotation that can likely hold on until the cavalry arrives in mid to late April. Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and new Brave Aaron Harang stepped up for the team and proved that they can certainly hold their own until Mike Minor, Erwin Santana and Gavin Floyd join the team.

    Aaron Harang made his Braves debut Wednesday, pitching into the 7th inning without allowing a hit.

    Aaron Harang made his Braves debut Wednesday, pitching into the 7th inning without allowing a hit.

    The Braves leave Milwaukee with 2 out of 3 games in the win column. The rubber match of the series saw the first start of Aaron Harang in a Braves’ uniform. Harang stepped up in a big way, pitching 6 2/3 no-hit innings against Matt Garza who was equally impressive until giving up a solo homer to Chris Johnson. Harang surrendered only 2 hits in his outing, walking 1 and striking out 3. His outing was supported by only 2 hits by his teammates against new Brewer Matt Garza and 1 off the bullpen. One of those hits was a 2-out solo homer by third baseman Chris Johnson that proved the deciding run of the game. In addition to Harang’s brilliant debut, Craig Kimbrel secured his second save of the young season. For their part, the defense was solid behind Harang including 2 incredible plays by Jason Heyward in right field.

    Harang’s dazzling outing came on the heels of Alex Wood’s 2014 debut. Wood was asked to step up in the wake of injuries to Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor. Wood, in the second slot of the rotation, did as he had throughout spring camp by shutting down Brewers’ hitters. With the exception of a first pitch solo homer given up to Carlos Gomez, Wood was solid. He allowed 5 hits, 1 earned run and 3 walks in 7 innings.

    In the second game of the series, the offense stepped up with power behind Alex Wood’s solid outing. Jason Heyward launched a homer off Kyle Lohse in the 5th inning and Freddie Freeman, continuing the torrid offense he put on display in camp, launched 2 homers–the first off Lohse in the 6th inning and then following up with his second off Duke in the 8th inning. Also contributing an RBI was Andrelton Simmons with a sacrifice. Dan Uggla, hoping to have reset himself over the winter, hit 2 doubles in the game, showing that he is much quieter in the batter’s box and is no longer swinging for the fences with every pitch. Wrapping up the 5-2 win over the Brewers was closer Craig Kimbrel with a 3-strikeout save.

    Of the 3 starting pitchers, Opening Day starter Julio Teheran fared the worst, though his outing was just as much affected by a complete lack of offense from his teammates as it was by his pitching. Teheran went 6 innings, giving up 7 hits, 1 walk and 2 earned runs while striking out 2. Teheran lobbed 55 strikes of his 84 pitches. His control did not seem to be as sharp as we had seen in spring training, but this could be chalked up to Opening Day jitters, the responsibility of being the Opening Day starter or the self-imposed pressure that comes with a big offseason contract.

    After Teheran’s 6 innings, rookies Ian Thomas and Gus Schlosser made their big league debuts. Thomas allowed a hit in the 1/3 inning pitched. Schlosser fared better going 1 2/3 perfect innings with 1 strikeout.

    The team went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left 7 men on base in the opener.

    BRAVES BEGIN WEEKEND SERIES IN NATION’S CAPITAL…

    In the span of 7 days, the Atlanta Braves will have participated in 3 home openers including their own at Turner Field. The second home opener they’ll play in will be that of rival Washington Nationals in D.C. Friday night. After a day off Thursday, the Braves will face the Nats in a 3-game series.

    Tanner Roark will be making the Friday afternoon start in the spot of Doug Fister who was placed on the disabled list by the Nats. Roark and rookie Jordan pitched very well at spring training, but there was only one rotation spot to be had. In the end, new manager Matt Williams was not forced to choose between them due to the injury to Fister. Roark went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA last season for the Nats. Roark went 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings in camp.

    Stephen Strasburg is fresh off a tumultuous start against the Mets on Opening Day where he struck out 10 batters while giving up 4 earned runs on 5 hits and 2 walks. The Nationals pulled out that game in 10 innings after the Mets’ bullpen collapsed and gave up 5 runs.

    As is often noted when the Braves face off against Strasburg, Dan Uggla has the best numbers against the fireballer. in 30 plate appearances Uggla has a .407 batting average (.467 on-base percentage, .704 slugging) with 11 hits, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 3 walks and 8 RBIs. Another Brave with outstanding numbers against Strasburg is the hot hitting Freddie Freeman. Freeman holds a .417 batting average against Strasburg in 21 plate appearances with 7 hits and 6 RBIs.

    Jordan, Sunday’s starter, had a strong spring going 2-2 with a 3.92 ERA in 20 2/3 innings pitched. Last season with the Nats, Jordan recorded a 3.66 ERA in a limited 51 2/3 innings. Jordan led all Washington pitchers in spring training, including Strasburg, with 20 strikeouts.

    The Braves will continue their 4-man rotation in D.C., sending rookie David Hale (0-0) to the mound Friday afternoon against Tanner Roark (0-0). Saturday’s night game pits Julio Teheran (0-1, 3.00) against Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 6.00). The final game of the series Sunday features Alex Wood (1-0, 1.29) and Taylor Jordan (0-0).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves sign veteran Harang, release Garcia

    Camp for the Atlanta Braves has been tumultuous, to say the least, due to the constant question mark surrounding starting pitching. Over the weekend, the Braves sent The RHPs Brandon Beachy, Gavin Floyd, Kris Medlen and LHPs Mike Minor and Jonny Venters to the 15-day disabled list. In addition to those injuries, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen, of course both needing second Tommy John surgeries on their pitching elbows and out for the entire season, recent acquisition Ervin Santana won’t be ready by Opening Day. Without Beachy, Medlen and Tim Hudson, who departed in free agency this winter, a veteran presence is desperately needed on the staff.

    GarciaUp until Monday, the belief was that veteran Freddy Garcia would fill that void and round out a strong rotation of young arms lead by Julio Teheran who has been named as the Braves’ Opening Day starter. But Frank Wren had other plans, apparently.

    Freddy Garcia’s 1-year contract this winter had an opt-out clause if Garcia didn’t make the starting rotation out of camp. With concerns about velocity and whether Garcia would be durable in the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation, the Braves released Garcia. Garcia had been a much needed addition late in the year for the Braves in 2013 when he recorded a 1.65 ERA in 3 starts and 3 dazzling relief appearances.

    Not long after that announcement was made, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Braves were going after veteran Aaron Harang who had been released by the Cleveland Indians the same day. By afternoon, the Braves announced a 1-year deal with Harang.

    Harang, 35, will begin his 13th big league season with the Braves. With the Indians this spring, Harang pitched 9 innings, allowing 2 runs on a total of 8 hits and 2 walks. In 2013, Harang had a bumpy road split between the Mariners and the Mets. He finished 2013 with a 5.40 ERA  (143 1/3 innings) and a 5-12 record. Harang has a career record of 110-116, with a 4.28 ERA. In 5 starts at Turner Field in his career, Harang has a 1-1 record with a 3.41 ERA over 34 1/3 innings, surrendering only 2 homers.

    How the Braves made the decision between Garcia and Harang is unclear, but it likely came down to money. Frank Wren has said that the Braves are about $10 million over their $100 million budget for 2014, mostly due to the urgent signing of Ervin Santana a few weeks ago. Garcia would have received $1.5 million if he made the team out of spring training and then $1.5 million plus in performance incentives.

    Both Garcia and Harang were in a similar situation for the Braves and Indians, respectively. Under union rules, their teams had to guarantee them a spot on the Opening Day roster, pay a retention bonus, or release them. Garcia spoke briefly with reporters yesterday and said the Braves didn’t want to pay his contract and that’s why he was leaving.

    The financial details of the Harang signing have not been released yet.

    With the signing of Harang, the Braves will likely begin the season with a 4-man rotation of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Aaron Harang and David Hale. Ervin Santana will be a few weeks behind joining the rotation due to his late signing. Winter acquisition Gavin Floyd and Mike Minor could both join the rotation during the week of April 20-26. Both Floyd and Minor begin the season on the DL, Floyd is returning from Tommy John elbow surgery and Minor is recovering from shoulder inflammation. How the rotation will look at that point has everything to do with how Gavin Floyd looks and how David Hale performs in the early going.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.