An 86-m.p.h. fastball smacked into Carlos Ruiz's mitt and Aaron Harang's regular-season debut with his eighth major-league team was underway. The journeyman was brought to Philadelphia to eat innings in a rebuilding season, but for much of Wednesday night his results more closely emulated those of the pitcher who made five consecutive opening-day starts for the Reds.
Mixing his five pitches and changing speeds, Harang limited the Boston Red Sox to one hit through the first six innings of a chilly, misty night at Citizens Bank Park. A half-inning before the veteran righthander was pulled after a laborious start to the seventh, Jeff Francoeur's three-run home run put him in line for a win.
In the Phillies' 4-2 victory, their first of the season, the 36-year-old Harang exited to applause after holding the Red Sox to only two singles over a scoreless 61/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked only one, two batters before he was pulled at 105 pitches with runners on first and second.
"Harang was outstanding," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Very effortless and very smooth. He was fun to watch."
Before Francoeur's sixth-inning homer, the Phillies went the first 14 innings of the season without scoring. Francoeur's first major-league home run since June 16, 2013 provided enough of a cushion for the Phillies to hold on and win despite a struggle-filled outing from Ken Giles.
Giles walked three and surrendered two unearned runs in the eighth before closer Jonathan Papelbon bailed him out en route to a four-out save. Giles, who battled back tightness late in spring training, showed decreased velocity. Whereas last season he excited fans with a 100-m.p.h. fastball, on Wednesday he topped out at 97 and hovered mostly around 94 and 95 m.p.h. He said physically he is fine.
"I just don't think that he's where he wants to be right now, where he should be," Sandberg said. "It looked like he was laboring out there."
"I've just got to make adjustments," said Giles, who threw only 15 of his 31 pitches for strikes. "I didn't make adjustments tonight."
Harang, who signed a one-year contract in January worth $5 million, was billed as an innings eater. He has logged more than 200 innings in four of his 13 years in Major League Baseball. Last season with the Braves he made 33 starts and logged 2041/3 innings.
Twice during his eight-year tenure with the Reds, in 2006 and 2007, he recorded more than 200 strikeouts. Although he will turn 37 in May, his propensity for the strikeout has not altogether eluded him.
After inducing a Mookie Betts fly-out, Harang struck out four consecutive Red Sox over the first two innings. He added two more in each of the third and sixth innings.
A pair of Pablo Sandoval singles, in the fourth and seventh innings, were the only hits Harang surrendered.
"It's always nice to come in and [pitch well in a debut]," Harang said. "You don't want to come in and end up being the goat and not have a good game, especially in the debut with your new club. To be able to come in and be aggressive and get us deep into a game, save the bullpen from any major inning buildups, is always nice."