Aaron Harang hasn't lost in his last five starts, and having a productive Freddie Freeman in the Atlanta Braves' lineup could go a long way in helping him pick up another victory.
After an injury scare, the Miami Marlins will be happy just to see Henderson Alvarez on the mound.
A day after Freeman took a big step toward emerging from his funk, Harang tries to win a fifth consecutive decision Thursday night against the Marlins.
Atlanta (55-46) is one game back of idle Washington for the NL East lead, and Harang (9-6, 3.36 ERA) has been a big part of that. He's tied with Julio Teheran and Ervin Santana for the team lead in wins and has gone at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer in 15 of his 20 starts.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.12 ERA over his last five, and he hasn't won five straight decisions since 2011 - though that came over an 11-game stretch.
Harang battled through 103 pitches with three walks in six scoreless innings while not getting any support in a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday.
"He's not going to give in," manager Fredi Gonzalez told MLB's official website. "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 has had two solid starts without receiving a decision against the Marlins (47-53) this season, but he also got shelled for nine runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 9-3 road loss April 30.
A four-run second inning doomed Harang in that one, but Atlanta was on the right side of a four-run second Wednesday. Freeman's three-run homer was the big blow en route to a 6-1 win.
The All-Star first baseman had been 3 for 31 with 11 strikeouts over the previous eight games, including 0 for 8 while fanning four times as the Braves dropped the first two of this set.
"He's always a threat up there regardless of how he's been swinging," Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi said. "He's got the power and he just went down there and hit a good pitch."
Freeman is just 3 for 47 in 12 meetings with the Marlins this year, but he hasn't had many problems against Alvarez (6-5, 2.64), going 5 for 12 with three doubles and a homer.
The All-Star is getting the nod despite exiting Saturday's 5-3 loss to San Francisco with two outs in the third after suffering a bruised left shin on a comebacker. The right-hander allowed two runs - one earned - in one of the shortest outings of his four-year career.
"We're anticipating Henderson will be fine," manager Mike Redmond said Monday. "He's feeling better each day. He should be fine to make his start.
"We got lucky, because it caught Henderson between the muscle and the shin. I think it got more muscle than bone. It blew up quickly on him. It was sore, of course. I think he's fine. We can't lose anybody, but especially him."
Alvarez is 0-2 with a 6.67 ERA in five career starts against the Braves. He didn't figure in the decision May 1, when he allowed four runs and two homers in six innings of a 5-4 win.
Christian Yelich has been a force at the plate for Miami, hitting .354 in 19 games since returning from being on the DL with a lower back strain. He has two hits in each of the last three games, giving him a .341 average in 22 career meetings with Atlanta.
The Associated Press News Service
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