If you’d have guessed that the shutout leaders in major-league baseball on June 11, all with two, would be Justin Masterson, Bartolo Colon, Adam Wainwright and…Aaron Harang, well, you’d be a genius. Felix Hernandez doesn’t have a complete-game shutout since his perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012 — a span off 22 starts — while Harang now has two in his last four starts.
Yeah, baseball is a funny game. Sure, it helps that he was facing a Houston team that has now lost six in a row — their fourth six-game losing streak of the season — and now has been shut out seven times, tops in the American League. But Harang was pretty masterful in firing a two-hitter (one an infield single), not walking any, striking out 10, and not allowing any runners past first base.
“He was fantastic,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “When he commands his fastball and it rides like it was tonight and he’s able to leverage it downhill, and climb when he wants to, he’s real good. When he does that, his secondary stuff is locked in, too, and that’s how it was tonight.”
The key for Harang, now 3-6 with a 5.60 earned-run average, is to do that more consistently. He has four starts under five innings. His last outing, against the Yankees, was one of his worst. He allowed eight hits and six runs in just 2 1/3 innings.
“It’s muscle memory, that repetition of working right,’’ Harang said of obtaining more consistency. “They say it takes a certain percentage of doing something bad or wrong to throw everything off, and it takes four times as long to get it back to being right.
“It also comes with feel. Some days you feel great, and you can throw every pitch in any count. Other days you pray you can throw just one pitch for strikes. When you can throw more than one pitch for strikes and get ahead early, it makes all the difference in the world.”
With Erasmo Ramirez knocking on the door in Tacoma, Harang bought himself more time in the rotation with tonight’s effort. It will be interesting to see how Jeremy Bonderman does on Thursday. He was awful in his first start but rebounded with a strong effort against the Yankees in his second outing.
Raul Ibanez, who homered for the second night in a row — the fourth time this year he’s homered in back-to-back games — had some interesting comments postgame about Kyle Seager and Nick Franklin.
“I really like the way Franklin goes about his business,” Ibanez said. “Seager does a great job talking to him. He’s in his ear the whole time. I think very, very highly of Kyle Seager and his professionalism, and his desire to improve every day. I think it’s great he’s passing that along to Nick. They have drive and they have a desire to improve. They’re hungry for knowledge, to their credit.”
Ibanez added of Franklin, “His approach is a phenomenal approach. That first at-bat he walked. Who does that? Most guys, he throws the resin bag and you’re swinging. He stayed calm. It’s a very, very good approach. He turns the double play nicely. He works hard at it. It’s fun to watch.”
Ibanez was actually mixing up Franklin’s first at-bat, a double to right-center in the second inning, with his next one, a walk in the fourth. But still, high praise from a highly respected veteran.