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Braves' power surge helps Harang solve Halos

Home runs by Gattis, Johnson help righty earn first win over LA
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ATLANTA -- Friday the 13th wasn't unlucky at all for the Braves and Aaron Harang.

Then, again, as Branch Rickey once said, "Luck is the residue of design."

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ATLANTA -- Friday the 13th wasn't unlucky at all for the Braves and Aaron Harang.

Then, again, as Branch Rickey once said, "Luck is the residue of design."

View Full Game Coverage

Harang couldn't have designed a better game plan than the one he and the Braves used in a 4-3 win over the Angels at Turner Field in the opener of an Interleague weekend set.

It was designed with a theme of "Get ahead."

Harang did that by throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 24 batters he faced, with 10 of those 19 first-pitch strikes catching Angels hitters looking.

"You have to [pitch from in front]," said Harang, who snapped a five-start winless streak in evening his record at 5-5 and raising his career mark in Interleague Play to 13-12. "If you can get them 0-2, 1-2, right away they're kind of at your mercy and have to go after your pitch because you put them in a hole right away."

Putting Angels starter C.J. Wilson in an early hole also was big. The Braves' offense did that as Evan Gattis and Chris Johnson hit back-to-back homers in a four-run first inning.

"Runs early are always good. It's good to jump out," said Gattis, who tattooed a 3-0 pitch into the seats in left-center for a three-run jack -- his 14th of the season to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. "Luckily, I got to see some pitches he threw for balls and timed him up good enough, and felt confident swinging 3-0."

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez thought nothing of letting Gattis swing away 3-0.

"The way he's swinging the bat right now, why not?" Gonzalez said.

Johnson followed Gattis' shot -- his first blast since May 25 and his first in Interleague Play -- by capping an eight-pitch at-bat in driving a ball out to left-center. Johnson entered batting .405 against lefties.

The Braves snapped a four-game home winless streak in Interleague Play with their first victory in seven Interleague contests this season. It was a nice way to start a seven-game homestand, restoring some order following the frustration of a recent seven-game road trip in which the Braves were held to five runs over the final two games at Coors Field.

Wilson sustained his first loss in six Interleague starts with the Angels and only his fourth in 11 decisions against the National League.

Wilson appeared unlucky from the get-go, hitting Jason Heyward on the right hand with an 0-1 pitch to start the game. Heyward left in the bottom of the second and is day to day with a right hand contusion.

"I was trying to go in on Heyward and the ball went a foot inside extra," Wilson said.

Friday night was Wilson's third two-homer game this season although he entered having not allowed a homer in his previous five starts over 33 innings.

"That pitch just didn't move at all. It was just right down the middle, so he hammered it," Wilson said of Gattis' shot. "Obviously, the guy's got great power and he's on a tear right now, so it was like the worst perfect storm of mislocations in the first inning."

Harang had no trouble locating in his first win in eight career starts against the Angels. He'd been 0-5 and had been hit especially hard in 2013 -- 0-4 with a 10.38 ERA against the Halos -- while with the Mariners. Friday night was the veteran's 12th quality start in 14 appearances this season, matching his 2013 season total.

Harang, whose ERA at Turner Field is better than a run lower than on the road, surrendered one run and four hits over six. He allowed a baserunner in each of the first five innings, but only one advanced as far as third.

A key was keeping 2-3-4 hitters Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in check, as the trio went a combined 0-for-9 against the right-hander with one walk (Trout in the third).

"Aaron had good stuff," Gattis said. "He has a good cutter, fastball, slider, curveball, changeup. We kind of just mixed it up. Trout got jammed a couple of times and still almost hit the ball out of the yard. He fouled off some tough pitches. I know why these guys can hit."

The Angels' only run off of Harang came via a pair of wild pitches in the third after allowing a double by Hank Conger. But Harang retired Pujols and Hamilton on fly balls to end the inning.

"I just was able to mix in some pitches," Harang said. "Getting ahead early was the big thing. Lately, the last couple of outings, I've been falling behind and having to pitch from behind. Today, I was able to come out and get strike one and try to get strike two right away, and kind of put them in a hole and make them hit my pitch."

Adding to Harang's good fortune was the solid defense behind him by Andrelton Simmons, who had 11 assists, including a sixth-inning highlight reel stop on Hamilton.

"He made three or four plays that were game-changing plays," Gonzalez said. "You want that ball hit to him. He'll find a way to get to the ball hit to him. He made some terrific plays."

The Angels tightened things in the eighth, as B.J. Upton's error opened the door to a two-run inning off of reliever Shae Simmons. Pujols' two-run single closed the gap to 4-3. After a walk to Hamilton, Simmons struck out Howie Kendrick then retired Erick Aybar on a grounder to first to end the threat.

Closer Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth to record his 19th save.

Jon Cooper is a contributor to

Atlanta Braves, Evan Gattis, Aaron Harang, Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson