Notes: Cox's loyalty benefits Harris
Outfielder rewards manager's faith in Wednesday's win
ATLANTA -- Just when he was starting to do his best Ryan Langerhans impersonation, Willie Harris took advantage of Braves manager Bobby Cox's prolonged patience and provided reason to believe he isn't as bad as his statistics have been over the past two months.
Had Cox chosen not to utilize Harris in his customary leadoff spot for Wednesday afternoon's game against the Phillies, the struggling outfielder would've understood. He was fully aware of the fact that he'd gone hitless in his previous 25 at-bats and had registered just three hits in his previous 47 at-bats.
But this would've have gone against the normal practice of Cox, whose patience was rewarded during Wednesday's 9-8 comeback victory. Harris produced an infield single in his first at-bat, hit his second homer of the season to begin the sixth and drew a bases-loaded walk in the four-run eighth inning.
It was certainly a productive afternoon for Harris, who entering the game had reached safely in just eight of his previous 53 plate appearances. This marked his first multi-hit game since Aug. 11.
"It's the best place I've ever played," said Harris, who signed with the Braves in the offseason. "I think a lot of other managers would have given up on a guy by now. [Cox] is the kind of guy you want to give 125 percent for. It just shows you his loyalty and character."
Since Harris arrived in Atlanta on April 30, he has platooned in left field with Matt Diaz, who during this span has hit a Major League-best .370. But Diaz's only start in left field against a right-handed pitcher over the past month came Friday night, when he went hitless in three at-bats.
Harris earned regular playing time when he hit .383 during his first 45 games with the Braves this year. But while hitting just .215 in the 57 games that followed, he at least gave Cox reason to stop utilizing his left-field platoon.
"You know you're going to go through bad times," said Harris. "But I didn't think the bad times could go this long. I knew I wasn't going to hit .400. I just think it's important now to get back to where I was hitting-wise."
When Langerhans tallied just three hits in 44 at-bats in April, the decision to part ways was influenced by the fact that his struggles had prolonged for nearly a year. His worst stretch this year was one that saw him go hitless in 29 consecutive at-bats -- an unenviable stretch that Harris had been threatening to match on Wednesday.
Speaking of Cinderella runs ... : When Buddy Carlyle went 6-1 with a 3.21 ERA in an eight-start stretch from June 26-Aug. 7, he caught the attention of many who wondered why he'd been out of the Majors since a brief stint in 2001.
While going 1-3 with an 8.57 ERA in his past five starts, the 29-year-old journeyman has provided some indication of why he spent most of last summer pitching in Korea. In his past 20 1/3 innings, he's surrendered eight homers.
Before this forgettable five-start stretch, Carlyle had surrendered just four homers in his previous 47 2/3 innings.
"He's kind of a high-ball pitcher, actually," Cox said after Carlyle surrendered two costly homers in Tuesday night's loss. "You've either got to get it way up or way down. You can't be in the hot zone."
McCann day-to-day: Brian McCann was forced to exit Wednesday's win in the eighth inning, when he aggravated his left ankle that has been bothering him for a couple of weeks. As he was running to second on a Jeff Francoeur single, the All-Star catcher stepped awkwardly and carefully made his way to the bag.
McCann was able to walk back to the dugout on his own power, and the Braves are hopeful he'll be available when they play the Nationals on Friday night.
Braves bits: Triple-A Richmond was scheduled to begin its best-of-five playoff series against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees on Wednesday night. The R-Braves' scheduled starters in the first three games are Jeff Bennett, Blaine Boyer and Francisley Bueno. ... Walter Victor, who served as the Braves' team photographer for more than 40 years, has compiled his top photographs in a new book entitled "Brave at Heart: The Life and Lens of Atlanta Braves' Photographer Walter Victor." The book is available for sale in the Braves Clubhouse Store and Victor will be signing copies from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on Friday in Turner Field's Fan Plaza.
Coming up: The Braves will enjoy a day of rest on Thursday and then begin a three-game series against the Nationals on Friday night at 7:35 p.m. ET. They'll send John Smoltz (12-7, 3.09) to the mound to oppose Joel Hanrahan (4-2, 5.14).
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.