Braves’ Harang: ‘We’ve got to put our foot down’

Aaron Harang delivers a pitch against the Cubs during the first inning of their MLB game on Sunday, May 11, 2014, in Atlanta. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

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Aaron Harang delivers a pitch against the Cubs during the first inning of their MLB game on Sunday, May 11, 2014, in Atlanta. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

MIAMI – After getting swept in four games by the Red Sox and blowing leads in three of the losses, the Braves flew to Miami in the early morning hours Friday to prepare for series that suddenly seemed more important than most folks figured it would be a couple of months ago.

The Braves and Marlins were tied for first place in the National League East standings entering Friday night’s series opener at Marlins Park, where they got swept in their last visit a month ago.

“That last series with Boston was tough,” said veteran Braves pitcher Aaron Harang, who starts Sunday’s series finale. “Everybody realized that we had things under control (against the Red Sox) and then there were mistakes made in all aspects. It’s a tough series when you’re ahead of a team in (three) games and then to let them slip away like that.

“We’re getting back into our division now, we’ve got to put our foot down and make sure that we don’t have another setback.”

Against the Red Sox, the Braves blew a 6-1 lead in Monday’s 8-6 loss and blew a 3-2 lead after six innings in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss. Those two games were in Atlanta, then the teams played two more in Boston, where the Red Sox shut out the Braves 4-0 on Wednesday and overcame a 3-1 deficit Thursday by capitalizing on Braves defensive gaffes while scoring two runs in the eighth inning and one in the ninth for a 4-3 walkoff win.

It was the first loss of the season for the Braves when they led after seven innings, and it made for a long flight from Boston to Miami, where the Braves landed after 3 a.m.

“I saw guys upset about yesterday’s game,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Friday afternoon at Marlins Park. “Guys who were in the game and guys who were not participating in the game were upset. And we’ll see how we come out today. I expect us to come out with some energy and get us back on (track).

“The great thing about our game is we’re right back out there today.”

In the eighth inning Wednesday, the Red Sox used four singles and two errors – one apiece by Braves left fielder Justin Upton and center fielder B.J. Upton – to score two runs against reliever David Carpenter, then won it in the ninth after Craig Kimbrel walked the first two batters on 10 pitches.

Xander Bogaerts followed with a sharp infield single that third baseman Chris Johnson was able to knock down and gather to make a throw to second base, but rookie Tommy La Stella, in his second major league game, dropped the ball and Jackie Bradley Jr. raced around from second base to score the winning run on the play.

It was No. 9 hitter Bradley who led off the inning with a walk.

“Kimbrel hadn’t pitched in five days,” Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes told reporters. “I told Jackie not to swing. That got us going.”

Kimbrel entered with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth and got David Ross to fly out to end the inning. It was his first time entering in the eighth inning this season, but he said getting cranked back up for the ninth didn’t affect his control.