Harang pitches Tuesday for Braves

Here are some notes on the Braves as they go for their 5th in a row Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

The Braves beat the Pirates 7-3 Monday night to win their fourth game in a row. They are now 65-60 but remain six games back of the Nationals (70-53) in the NL East. Washington, who now has the best record in the NL, had yet another walk-off win on a home run by Adam LaRoche to beat the Diamondbacks 5-4. Atlanta is one game back of the Giants for the second wildcard spot, now a game up on the Pirates (64-61) and 2.5 games up on the Marlins (62-62).

The Braves scored six runs in the first inning – a solo home run by Jason Heyward (10) led off the game, followed by a solo home run for Andrelton Simmons (6), who was hitting second Monday. Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson and Gerald Laird all had two hits each.

Heyward was 3-4 with two RBI (47) and now has his average up to .268. Since July 1, Heyward is now hitting .314 (44-140). His season OBP is now up to .351. The Braves are 5-1 since moving Heyward back to leadoff. He’s hit .292 (7-24) with a .333 OBP since moving back to the top spot.

Ervin Santana was not at his best, but he got his 13th win of the season (13-6, 3.71 ERA). Santana allowed three runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings, with two walks and four strikeouts. In his last 12 starts, Santana is 8-3 with an ERA of 3.33 (29 ER in 78.1 IP). Monday’s game was the first time in 14 starts Santana had not gone at least six innings.

Batting averages in August: Freeman (.377), Heyward (.322), C. Johnson (.290), Justin (.273), Gattis (.220), Simmons (.214), La Stella (.184) and B.J. Upton (.114).

B.J. Upton did not play Monday. Since the All Star Break, Upton is hitting .179. He has not had a multi-hit game all month long. Upton has had more than two hits in a game only once this season – when he had three against the Mets on July 8.

Evan Gattis had started all three games over the weekend against the A’s, so he was given Monday off. It was hit 28th birthday. He did start eight of the 10 games on the recent home stand.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wanted Upton, Gattis and hot-hitting Phil Gosselin to have the day off after the team did not arrive in Pittsburgh until 3:00 am. Gonzalez admitted he wants to give Gattis every fourth day off.

Shae Simmons got lit up in a rehab assignment. He gave up four earned runs in the first inning of Gwinnett’s game Monday night in Charlotte. Simmons allowed two hits and walked two. He’s coming back from a shoulder strain injury and has been out for almost a month. Gwinnett (56-73) lost 17-4.

Mississippi lost 4-2 in Mobile Monday night, but starter Greg Ross continued his good work on the mound. Ross fell to 6-3 in Double-A, but his ERA is 2.20 in 11 games (10 starts). Ross allowed two earned runs on eight hits in six innings. Overall this season, coupled with his 15 games (11 starts) in Lynchburg, Ross is 11-6 this season with an ERA of 2.92. Ross was Atlanta’s 18th round pick in the 2011 draft out of Frostburg State in Maryland.

The Braves placed second baseman Jose Peraza on the disabled list with a groin strain. Peraza has been in Double-A for two months now and has a .341 average with Mississippi. He was the Southern League player of the month in July as he hit .359 in 24 games.

Aaron Harang (9-7, 3.51) will pitch Tuesday night at 7:05 against Francisco Liriano and the Pirates. Harang gave up five runs in his last start against the Dodgers on Thursday. It was the first time since April 30 he had not gone at least five innings in a start. Alex Wood will pitch the finale of the series Wednesday against Gerrit Cole. The Pirates have lost six in a row. They are expected to get Andrew McCutchen back in the lineup Tuesday against Atlanta. He’s been out since August 5.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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