Phillies-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Aaron Harang has regrouped nicely from the last time he faced the Philadelphia Phillies at home.

The right-hander looks to win his fifth straight start Saturday night when the Atlanta Braves try to end their recent struggles against Cole Hamels and record a sixth straight victory over the Phillies.

Harang (9-6, 3.53 ERA) is 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA since allowing nine runs and 13 hits in five innings of a 10-5 loss to Philadelphia on June 18 at Turner Field. He gave up a run and overcame four walks in seven innings of a 3-1 victory over the New York Mets on July 10 that snapped Atlanta's four-game slide.

"I thought Aaron pitched a great game, which he can do against anybody," Mets manager Terry Collins told MLB's official website. "He just stays away, away, away on you, and then comes in when he has to."

Harang also avenged that defeat to the Phillies when he yielded two solo homers to Marlon Byrd in seven innings of a 3-2 road victory June 29.

Atlanta (53-43) has outscored Philadelphia 28-12 during a winning streak that reached five games with Friday's 6-4 victory. The win came hours after former All-Star and struggling second baseman Dan Uggla was released by the Braves.

"We'll look for ways to improve our club internally, maybe externally, but we do think that the foundation of a real good ballclub is here," general manager Frank Wren said.

Jason Heyward homered and had two RBIs and Chris Johnson added two hits for the NL East-leading Braves, who have scored 27 runs while winning their last three overall.

Heyward is 8 for 17 with seven runs scored and four RBIs in the last four games, while Johnson is 7 for 13 in the last three after going 3 for 28 over his previous seven.

Johnson is batting .353 (6 for 17) against Hamels (3-5, 2.93), who has yielded three runs and struck out 24 over 24 innings while going 2-0 in his last three starts against the Braves.

One of those runs came in a complete-game victory Aug. 18 in Atlanta. Hamels' most recent start at Turner Field was another gem in which he gave up five hits in seven scoreless innings of a 6-1, 13-inning victory June 16.

The left-hander's solid overall performance this season has resulted in few wins mainly because the Phillies (42-54) have scored four or more runs with him on the mound in three of his 16 starts. Hamels, 2-2 with a 1.87 ERA in his last nine starts, allowed two of his three runs on a homer and three other hits in seven innings of a 5-3, 10-inning loss to Washington last Saturday.

Ryan Howard, who had two RBIs on Friday, is batting .109 in his last 18 games but .333 (9 for 27) with two doubles and three home runs against Harang.

Grady Sizemore is hitting .313 (5 for 16) in four games since he was signed to a minor league contract last month by Philadelphia, which dropped its third straight contest following a five-game winning streak.

"Not the start we wanted in the second half," said manager Ryne Sandberg, whose last-place Phillies are 11 games behind the Braves.