AP Photo/Al Behrman
Harang scattered six hits while striking out four and walking none. It was his second consecutive start, and third in the past six, in which he didn't allow an earned run.
Coming into this season, Harang looked like a pitcher poised for further growth. Virtually all of his skill indicators were trending positively, and at age 30 he hadn't yet flattened out in any area.
Note the improvement in Harang's strikeout-to-walk ratio in the season since he joined the Reds until now. Correspondingly, his ERA dropped each year as well.
While Harang's walks have been slightly up and his strikeouts down this year, the indicators that stand out in 2008 are his home-run rate and ground-ball percentage. Harang has allowed more fly balls this season, and due to an inflated 14 percent home run/fly ball ratio, more of those flies have left the yard.
The home run/fly ball ratio likely will correct itself next season, settling in closer to Harang's norm of 10 percent. Still, Harang appears to be inducing fewer grounders, and more flies usually means more homers.
Harang posted a 2.98 ERA for March and April, then went into the tank in May and June. He ended up missing nearly all of July with a forearm strain, and it's quite likely that the injury affected him before he went on the disabled list. When Harang returned, he was battered for eight earned runs twice, in back-to-back outings.
Since those two eight-run bombings? In six starts spanning 42 innings, Harang has allowed 34 hits, nine earned runs and nine walks to accompany 30 strikeouts. Those are good numbers, with the only caveat being his five home runs allowed during that span.
Since those first two starts after returning from injury, Harang is pitching like an ace again. His fly-balling ways are indeed a slight cause for concern, and owners should temper their 2009 ERA expectations just a touch. However, Harang otherwise appears to be back in form. There's little reason to believe that he won't be close to the same pitcher in 2009 that he was in 2006 and 2007, and he's certainly throwing well this September.Past editions: 9/17: Haren rebounds | 9/16: Sluggin' Shoppach | 9/15: Z's no-no
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
He went 4-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs in the 17-4 thrashing of the Rangers. Cabrera tied his career-high with his 34th homer and set a career-best with 121 RBIs. However, his .296 average is still off his career .310 mark.
Brandon Backe, Astros
He hadn't pitched since Sept. 2 because of a forearm strain, but his first start back was something to forget as he allowed five runs and six hits, including two homers, in just 1 2/3 innings.
New Milwaukee manager Dale Sveum has replaced Manny Parra in the rotation with Dave Bush, who will pitch for the Brewers on Thursday on three days' rest. Sveum says that the entire rotation may be on short rest the next time out due to the loss of Ben Sheets. ... Injured White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin had his cast removed Wednesday and has been cleared to begin swinging a bat. ... The Blue Jays have scheduled MRIs on Thursday for both Shaun Marcum, who left his Tuesday start with forearm tightness, and Rod Barajas, who has missed four games behind the plate with a hamstring injury. ... Baltimore right-hander Daniel Cabrera will miss his next start and see a specialist after experiencing elbow pain in a side session. ... Mariners starter Erik Bedard has scheduled exploratory surgery for later this month. ... Injured A's starter Justin Duchscherer will throw a brief simulated game Thursday. He's a candidate to start against Seattle on Saturday. ... Angels third baseman Chone Figgins will return to Los Angeles to have his elbow examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum.
"The demarcation line between the dependable [Aaron] Harang and the awful version came during an 18-inning game at Petco Park on May 25, when Reds manager Dusty Baker summoned Harang out of desperation for 63 pitches and four innings of shutout relief. Three days later, Harang started on short rest and was shelled by Pittsburgh. In this case, Baker's managerial strategy was crying out for an intervention. Even though Harang went down for a month with a strained forearm, he refused to use the injury as an excuse. But it helps explain his wavering command and all those hanging sliders."
-- Jerry Crasnick Starting 9
"And as disappointing as this series might have been to the champs, the Red Sox know now they're going to be in [the playoffs]. They're seven games up in the wild-card race with a week and a half to play. But once they get in, they just might have a rocky road ahead of them. They went 1-8 this year against their likely first-round opponent, the Angels. And if they survive that round, they could be looking at another trip to Tampa Bay -- where they lost eight out of nine this season. And that's not because of catwalks or cowbells, either. That's because the team that plays there is for real, whether America has caught onto that yet or not."
-- Jayson Stark Full story
"What follows is pure speculation, and nothing more: If Brian Cashman leaves the Yankees as general manager, the perfect person to replace him would be Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who once worked for the Yankees, and who has the kind of personality to deal with the pressure of working in New York. The only way this could happen, of course, would be if, for one reason or another -- maybe if the Brewers don't make the playoffs -- Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio would want to change general managers. As we've seen this week, Attanasio is not averse to changes."
-- Buster Olney Full story
• The A's recalled outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Denorfia. On Tuesday, both played in Pacific Coast League champion Sacramento's victory over International League champ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Bricktown Showdown for the overall Triple-A championship. Both players will compete for 2009 spots in the crowded Oakland outfield.