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Harang's outing qualifies as rocky

Harang wastes early HR support

MILWAUKEE -- On Monday, Aaron Harang and the Reds made the unorthodox decision to let the rotation ace return after a two-hour, three-minute rain delay.

That was because, with two outs in the fifth inning, Harang needed only one more out to qualify for a victory over the Astros, which he received.

Fast forward to Saturday's 9-5 loss to the Brewers and Harang didn't pitch well enough to even get through the fifth inning. He had eight earned runs and 12 hits allowed, including three home runs, over 4 1/3 innings pitched with five strikeouts.

"My velocity was good, location was bad," Harang said.

It was a line not befitting of Harang's history vs. the Brewers. He came in 4-1 lifetime at Miller Park and hadn't lost to the Brewers anywhere since July 30, 2006.

"Everything has to come to an end sometimes," Harang said. "But we play these guys plenty more times and I will have a lot more chances."

Harang (5-5) didn't respond well either last season in the outing that followed a four-inning emergency relief appearance in San Diego. Did the right-hander's previous unique outing have an effect on his lackluster performance on Saturday? Manager Dusty Baker didn't think so.

"I didn't see anything. His velocity was actually better," Baker said. "He threw the ball better this time. ... There was no carryover. Sometimes everybody looks for reasons. Sometimes the reason is on the other side of the field."

"Everything was fine," Harang said when asked how he felt. "I couldn't locate anything tonight. You can't live with just throwing the fastball. When you have nothing else to throw off of it, it's going to be a long night."

The only thing not in question is that the Reds' critical seven-game road trip through Milwaukee and St. Louis is off to a rough start. Cincinnati has dropped back-to-back games to the Brewers to guarantee a losing three-game series at Miller Park.

On a day when Joey Votto went on the disabled list with a stress-related issue, the Reds got second baseman Brandon Phillips back despite a fractured right thumb. Two batters after Jerry Hairston Jr. hit a two-run home run in the first inning, Phillips slugged a homer to left field in his first start in a week and made it a 3-0 game.

That's normally ample room for Harang, but he gave up three first-inning runs of his own. Craig Counsell and J.J. Hardy started the Milwaukee first with singles off Harang and Prince Fielder slugged a three-run homer to right field that tied the game.

Cincinnati gave Harang a 4-3 lead in the second inning when Chris Dickerson's RBI triple to the right-field corner scored Ryan Hanigan. Dickerson, filling in for Willy Taveras, had three hits in the game and also made a spectacular run-saving diving catch in right-center field on Counsell's fly ball. Hanigan added a rolling two-out RBI single up the middle in the fourth inning to make it a two-run game.

The Reds also had two runners -- Dickerson in the second and Hanigan in the fourth -- who were thrown out at the plate. Another runner, Dickerson, was left stranded on third after there was one out in the fifth. Meanwhile, Harang got into a decent groove after his bumpy first inning.

"I did make some good pitches," Harang said. "I almost would say I was effectively wild at that point. I was setting up for fastballs away and was throwing fastballs in. It was one of those nights I had no control of anything. I was pitching from behind all night."

It all came apart in the Milwaukee fifth inning. Ryan Braun hit a one-out solo homer to left-center field and Mike Cameron slugged a two-run long ball to left field two batters later. After a Corey Hart infield hit, Harang was finished once Bill Hall drove an RBI double to the gap in left-center.

Over his last two starts, Harang has allowed 11 earned runs, 22 hits and four homers over just 9 1/3 innings. Baker resisted going to his bullpen as long as possible but brought in Jared Burton for Harang with one out in the fifth.

"We've been going to the bullpen in the middle part of the game with Micah," Baker said, referring to Sunday's starter, Micah Owings. "I certainly can't burn out the entire bullpen with the next series against the Cardinals. That's why we tried to stick with Aaron as long as we could."

Burton allowed Mike Rivera's RBI double, which scored the seventh of his 10 inherited runners this season, and later gave up one more run of his own. The six-run, seven-hit fifth in which 11 Brewers batted were single-inning highs for the Reds this season.

"When those guys start hitting, it's hard to turn it off," Baker said. "If you don't make quality pitches on them, they're going to hurt you."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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