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ATL@PIT: Harang goes 8 1/3 innings, gets the win

The Braves are in the thick of the National League Wild Card race -- they trail the Giants by one game -- thanks in large part to their late March acquisition of Aaron Harang, who is putting together an unexpected career-best season in 2014.

He returns to Great American Ball Park on Sunday to face his former club, against whom he owns a 2.16 ERA in four starts. Repeated success seems in order given how the 13-year veteran has pitched all year long.

Atlanta lost both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery during Spring Training before cutting Freddy Garcia and signing Harang, who is 10-7 with a 3.50 ERA and a career-high 21 quality starts in 26 outings this season.

"It is nice to see him resurrect his career," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Harang. "He is a very good guy and an accomplished pitcher. He was the ace of the staff here. He has pitched extremely well against the Reds, I know that. He is a bottom-of-the-zone, really good control, down-and-away, fastball/slider pitcher. When he was here, for whatever reason, it was a lot harder for him to get the ball down. He had some elevation problems. He found a good pitching coach and was able to get the ball down again."

Harang's most recent turn was his deepest as he lasted a season-best 8 1/3 innings against the Pirates on Tuesday, surrendering three earned runs or fewer for the ninth time in his past 11 starts.

"We just got to look at it one game at a time," Harang said following his win in Pittsburgh, trumpeting the mantra the Braves took on after dropping eight straight and 12 of 15 in late July and early August. Atlanta is 7-2 since.

Perhaps the Braves' turnaround can be a blueprint for a Reds club that ended a seven-game slide on Saturday that has significantly hampered its postseason chances. A rebound would ideally continue with Alfredo Simon going deep into Sunday's game.

Simon hasn't pitched more than 5 1/3 frames in four August starts, lasting only five in his first three turns.

He gave up three earned runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday against the Cardinals, who lead the Braves by three games for the top NL Wild Card spot and lead the Reds by nine games in the NL Central.

Reds: Ludwick hoping history pays off
Ryan Ludwick has struggled mightily in the second half, batting .202 (17-for-84) with two homers, six walks and 23 strikeouts. But a date with Harang on the mound could potentially be the thing that gets him going.

Ludwick has hit .359 (14-for-39) with three homers and nine RBIs in his career against the right-hander, whom he faced often when Ludwick was with the Cardinals and Harang pitched for the Reds.

Braves: Simmons, Heyward saving runs
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons and outfielder Jason Heyward have done wonders for the Braves defensively, statistically ranking as two of the best fielders in the Majors since the beginning of last season.

Simmons led all Major Leaguers with 60 Defensive Runs Saved since Opening Day 2013 entering Saturday, and Heyward ranked third with 48. Heyward's 33 DRS in 2014 ranked as the best in baseball and is more than twice his total of last year.

Worth noting
• Justin Upton's 13-game hitting streak was snapped on Saturday.

• Brandon Phillips finished 2-for-3 on Saturday for his first multihit game since July 9. Comments