Atlanta Braves pitcher Aaron Harang (34) pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Braves beat the Brewers 1-0. (Photo: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)
MILWAUKEE — For all the concern heading into the season over their decimated starting rotation, the Atlanta Braves are doing just fine.
After outstanding efforts from right-hander Julio Teheran and lefty Alex Wood in the first two games of their season-opening series at Milwaukee, the Braves got a gem their third time out from a most unlikely candidate.
Right-hander Aaron Harang was brilliant Wednesday afternoon, throwing a no-hitter through six innings as the Braves beat the Brewers 1-0, at Miller Park.
Through three games, the Braves’ starters have only allowed three runs and struck out 10 in 19 2/3 innings of work.
“I felt good in the pen and I was just able to come out and keep them off balance and keep their team guessing,” said Harang, who didn’t join the Braves until March 25, just a day after he was let go by the Cleveland Indians. “Then you see their guy throwing up numbers like that and you’re trying to do the same thing and give your team a chance to win. I was able to do that.”
The Braves were in need of help after losing both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending Tommy John surgeries.
The 35-year-old Harang had an average spring, posting a 2-1 record and 4.91 ERA in five games (three starts) but was on from the start Wednesday.
Harang (1-0) retired his first seven batters before walking Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay in the third and then sat the next 11 down in order.
But Milwaukee right-hander Matt Garza, making his Brewers debut, matched zeroes with Harang, and took a no-hitter of his own into the seventh before third baseman Chris Johnson broke it up with his first home run of the season, a solo shot to left that would be the difference.
“Amazing,” Johnson said. “Anytime you get a 1-0 win, all kudos go to the pitching staff. He did awesome. He worked quick. He was fun to play behind. He was throwing strikes on both sides of the plate.”
The Brewers finally got one past Harang in the seventh, when left fielder Logan Schafer led off with a single up the middle.
Schafer was retired when Braun bounced into a fielder’s choice but Ramirez moved Braun to third with a base hit to right, putting runners at the corners with one out.
Harang would get catcher Jonathan Lucroy to pop out to second before giving way to left-hander Luis Avilan.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke then sent Rickie Weeks to pinch-hit for the Scooter Gennett, a left-hander, but Weeks ended the threat with a weak grounder to third.
“I think our offense is going to score runs and when we don’t, I’m going to be disappointed,” Roenicke said. “Sometimes you look at the other pitcher — I’ve seen Harang before and this was really a good ball game for him.”
The punchless offense provided a bittersweet Milwaukee debut for Garza.
Signed to a franchise-record $52 million deal in January, Garza was outstanding through the first 6 2/3 innings, allowing just a fourth-inning walk to first baseman Freddie Freeman and striking out six.
Garza got help from his defense, too, especially in the seventh when third baseman Aramis Ramirez made a nice grab of center fielder B.J. Upton’s sharp grounder to lead off the inning, just before Johnson’s home run.
“I liked the way he threw the ball,” Roenicke said. “He commanded it, his slider was outstanding and he mixed in some curveballs. He’s going to win a lot of games if he pitches like that.
“Offensively, Harang was good. He commanded his fastball good and his slider was really good today. We just need to score runs.”
Garza (0-1) likely would have come back out for the ninth — he threw just 90 pitches (65 strikes) — but Milwaukee needed offense before facing Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.
“You just tip your cap, man,” Garza said. “It was one hell of a game and I hope the fans enjoyed it.”
Right fielder Jason Heyward came through with a defensive gem, making a diving grab that robbed center fielder Carlos Gomez of a potential double as Kimbrel picked up his second save in as many games.
NOTES: Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez went 1-for-3 Wednesday to improve to .333 (22-for-66) lifetime against Braves RHP Aaron Harang. … The Brewers are 8-3 against the Braves in their last 11 meetings, including six shutouts. … Braves closer Craig Kimbrel needs 13 saves to tie John Smoltz (154) for first place on the franchise’s all-time list. … Milwaukee SS Jean Segura was not in the lineup Wednesday. Manager Ron Roenicke said it was a planned day off to avoid a setback with Segura’s shoulder, which has been sore for much of spring training.