SEATTLE (AP) — Now in his 15th major league season, Aaron Harang still is looking for consistency.
On Tuesday night he found it.
The Seattle Mariners’ 35-year-old right-hander locked into a groove against the Houston Astros, matching a career low in yielding just two in a complete-game 4-0 shutout victory.
Harang (3-6) had a season-high 10 strikeouts – the 12th time in his career with 10 or more, and no walks. It was his 15th career complete game and eighth shutout.
Yet it came just one start after the New York Yankees chased him, pounding him for eight hits and six runs in just 2 1-3 innings on Thursday. And it was three starts after his 9-0 complete game win May 27 over San Diego.
“It comes with feel,” Harang said. “Some days you feel great, when you can throw every pitch whenever you want in any count. And there are other days when you can’t throw one pitch for strikes.”
Finding his groove in one start and searching for it in the next one may be one reason why Harang now has a career 108-109 record.
“It does make a big difference when you can establish the strike zone and get ahead early,” Harang said, “and you can execute multiple pitches. It makes it hard (to succeed) when they can zero in on one single pitch.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said it was the command of his fastball that made Harang so effective against the Astros.
“He was fantastic,” Wedge said. “When he commands his fastball and it rides like it was tonight, and he’s able to leverage it downhill and climb when he wants to, he’s real good. When he does that his secondary stuff is locked in, too, like it was tonight.
“He’s working on it (fastball consistency). We don’t expect him to go out there and throw a shutout next time, but we expect him to give us a chance to win the ball game. And when he is a little off, he has to be able to find it. That’s the biggest key.”
Harang allowed a two-out infield single to deep short by J.D. Martinez in the second inning. He then retired 16 of the next 17 batters, as the only Astro to reach during that span was Brandon Barnes on a sixth-inning error.
Martinez also collected the other hit, an inning-opening single to left in the seventh. He never advanced past first.
Raul Ibanez hit his team-leading 13th home run – his second in as many nights – in the sixth inning. It was his 74th career home run at Safeco Field, the most by any player.
Bud Norris (5-6) went seven innings for the Astros. He allowed three runs on five hits, walking one and striking out six.
The Mariners have eight shutouts this season, tied with Cleveland for the most in the American League.
The Astros have been shut out a league-high seven times.
“He attacked the zone,” Astros manager Bo Porter said of Harang. “I don’t think it wasn’t anything we weren’t prepared for; it just seemed like he missed barrels and changed speeds when he needed to.”
The Astros have lost six in a row.
“When a team is going through a bit of a funk and you have that happening as an offense, sometimes guys get frustrated and try to do too much,” right fielder Trevor Crowe said. “We may be going through a bit of that right now.”
Spotty defense by the Astros played a role in both the Mariners’ first two runs.
In the first, Endy Chavez opened with a double into the right-field corner and advanced to third when shortstop Ronny Cedeno missed the relay. After two outs, Chavez scored on Norris’ wild pitch, on a 1-2 count to Ibanez.
Then in the second inning it happened again. Nick Franklin opened with a double to right and Crowe’s throw to second was wide of Cedeno for another error. The Astros have committed a major league-high 49 errors.
Franklin advanced to third and scored on Michael Saunders’ sac-fly to deep left.
“They were just bad throws,” said Crowe, who threw both balls in from right field. “The first one I had a chance. The second one you just have to slow down and make a better throw.
“It’s very unfortunate, the way Bud pitched tonight.”
Ibanez’s home run gave the Mariners 73 this season. They account for 109 of the team’s 235 runs, 46.2 percent.
The Mariners added a run in the eighth. Chavez opened with a double and scored on Kyle Seager’s one-out single to right.
NOTES: The Mariners had the rare occurrence of having their 2012 first-round draft choice and their 2013 first-rounder on their home field before the game. C Mike Zunino, last year’s third overall selection, was called up before the game. He is the first position player to reach the majors. The club’s top pick this year, 12th overall, 3B D.J. Peterson, was invited in along with a half dozen other draftees. The club is beginning the negotiating process. … Astros LF J.D. Martinez had a pair of singles in his three at-bats to give him at least one hit in 13 of his past 15 games. He’s hitting .322 during that span. … Jose Altuve’s 11-game hit streak ended.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.