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PHI@ATL: Harang whiffs four without allowing a run

June 18 was a tough day for Aaron Harang, who gave up eight earned runs on 13 hits in an ugly loss to the Phillies. It was his worst outing since April 30, when he surrendered nine earned runs on 10 hits against the Marlins, whom he'll face Thursday.

The rough outing against Philly inflated the veteran's ERA to a season-worst 3.83, leading many to believe his early-season success had finally run out. But instead, he got back on track, embarking on a five-start stretch during which he is 4-0 with a 2.12 ERA.

That includes his six shutout innings against the Phillies on July 19. Harang gave up five hits and walked three, but the right-hander battled through some tough spots to preserve a 0-0 tie in what was a pitchers' duel between he and Cole Hamels.

"I've kind of gotten used to him now," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said following the game. "He's not going to give in. He may walk a guy or may walk another guy to get to the guy he knows he can get out, and that's being a veteran. That's a guy who's been in the league for a long time."

Harang will pitch opposite Henderson Alvarez, who received a scare in his last start, exiting after 2 2/3 innings after being struck on the left shin by a comebacker.

The bruise raised concerns that Alvarez could be pushed back a day or so, or perhaps miss the start. But the right-hander, who has been shaken up several times this season, once again bounced back quickly.

"Some guys have stuff that happens for whatever reason," manager Mike Redmond said.

Alvarez looks to get back on the winning track. The All-Star has lost back-to-back decisions after the Marlins had a streak of winning 10 straight of his starts.

Alvarez is 0-2 with a 6.67 ERA in five career starts against the Braves. On the road this year, the right-hander is 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA, compared to a 4-2 (1.64 ERA) home mark. In 20 starts this season, Alvarez has thrown 122 2/3 innings.

"We've talked about this is an important year for him to go out and get to that 200-inning mark," Redmond said. "That's a huge goal for a starting pitcher. Hopefully he can get there and continue with the success that he's having."

Marlins: Veterans providing direction
• Over the course of a long season, having players who have been through the rigors previously is helping a young Miami nucleus.

Veterans like Casey McGehee, Reed Johnson, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones are providing direction to a youthful roster.

Having some voices who speak from experience is paying off during a stretch in which the Marlins lost six straight.

"I think the older guys we've brought in have done a great job with our younger players," Redmond said. "They've helped keep the young guys focused and keep them level-headed in what we're trying to do. They've really helped teach those guys how to prepare and be consistent with the game plan. You see a lot of guys on the bench talking about the pitcher and gathering information. Guys come in saying, from the pitcher, 'I saw this, I saw that.'"

Braves: Freeman homer fractures two dry spells
• Freddie Freeman entered Wednesday night 2-for-44 against Miami and homerless in his last 123 plate appearances at Turner Field. After drawing a first-inning walk, he snapped out of both skids with a three-run homer off Nathan Eovaldi in the second.

"I've been struggling the last couple of weeks, and it's definitely nice to hit some balls hard all night," said Freeman, who also grounded out and lined out.

Worth noting
• McGehee went hitless in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday for the first time since May 22-23.

• Atlanta backup catcher Gerald Laird owns a six-game hitting streak, batting .381 (8-for-21) during that stretch.

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