Flushing, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Aaron Harang saw his bid for a no-hitter end after seven innings due to a high pitch count, but two Atlanta relievers preserved his shutout and the Atlanta Braves blanked the New York Mets, 6-0, on Friday to open a three-game set from Citi Field.
Harang (3-1) struck out five and walked six over seven stellar frames, but after 121 pitches -- 70 of which went for strikes -- manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to pull his starter despite the no-hitter and turn it over the pen. Luis Avilan retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth before David Wright ripped a single to left for New York's first and only hit. Jordan Walden pitched a perfect ninth to finish it.
"It's tough on him (Gonzalez), and he reiterated multiple times 'man I'm sorry, I hate doing that,'" said Harang. "I understand, I've seen it happen. It's happened to me before. I want us to win."
Harang, who struggled in 26 starts last season for the Mariners and Mets, has been terrific in four starts so far for the Braves. The 35-year-old righty has allowed just two runs and nine hits in 25 2/3 innings.
"I'm pulling for him," Gonzalez said. "I want to see him throw a no-hitter. But I think it gets to a point where you have to worry about 25 more starts. You have to worry about his longevity. I think we made the right decision."
Atlanta nearly became the second team in the last three seasons to toss a combined no-hitter. The Seattle Mariners used six pitchers to accomplish the feat in a 1-0 win over the Dodgers in 2012.
Freddie Freeman hit his fifth home run of the season for the Braves, winners in six of seven. Chris Johnson had three hits, including two doubles, with an RBI and a run scored and Dan Uggla doubled and scored in the triumph.
Mets starter Jonathon Niese (0-2) was the unlucky loser after giving up just a run on four hits while striking out seven in six innings
After a scoreless first inning, Atlanta broke through with a run in the second. Justin Upton singled to lead off the frame, Evan Gattis walked and two batters later, Johnson delivered an RBI double to left. Niese avoided further damage, however, striking out Ryan Doumit and forcing Harang to line out to second.
Harang was untouchable the rest of the way despite dealing with control problems. He walked a batter in both the second and third innings but didn't allow either to reach second base. He then tossed 1-2-3 fourth and fifth innings and issued two walks in the sixth before running into trouble in his final frame. After two quick pop ups, Harang walked consecutive batters and ran the count full to pinch-hitter Andrew Brown. But on his 121st pitch, Harang got Brown swinging with a breaking ball in the dirt.
"Couple of innings where we actually got some runners on," said Wright. "I think he threw Browny a 3-2 curveball or slider, so you could just tell how confident he was in his stuff."
Freeman's two-run shot in the top half of the eighth off Gonzalez Germen plated B.J. Upton for some insurance runs. Later in the inning, Justin Upton was thrown out at home trying to score from first on Uggla's double. Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud fired to third to try and catch Uggla advancing, but the throw got away and Uggla trotted home. Johnson then singled and scored on Jordan Schafer's double over Curtis Granderson's head in right.
Justin Upton's sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth plated his brother and resulted in the final margin.
Harang has taken a no-hit bid into the seventh inning twice this season. Only one other pitcher has done it once (Matt Garza against Harang on April 2) ... Atlanta hit just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position ... Prior to the game, the Mets shipped first baseman Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor league pitcher Zach Thornton and a player to be named later.