PHILADELPHIA -- Through four innings, Aaron Harang was almost exclusively throwing strikes. Reds batters worked the veteran right-hander, who entered the day fifth in the National League in ERA, into just one three-ball count, that one coming in the fourth inning.
But once the fifth inning rolled around, Harang just didn't have it anymore.
"I didn't feel as sharp," Harang said. "I felt like I was leaving the ball up in the zone. My control wasn't as pinpoint as it had been."
Harang's control disappeared in the fifth and sixth innings of the Phillies' 6-4 loss on Thursday. Harang entered the top of the fifth inning with a 2-1 lead and promptly walked left fielder Skip Schumaker on five pitches. Harang walked one more that inning, two more the following inning and worked two other batters three-ball counts. Over those two innings, Harang saw the score teeter from 2-1 in his favor to 6-2 against him.
In total Harang lasted just 5 2/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. He allowed five earned runs on six hits and five walks while striking out only one batter. He only allowed seven earned runs in six May starts and the five earned runs tied his season high. His five walks were the most free passes he had registered since June 8, 2014, when he was a member of the Atlanta Braves.
The turning point of the game in Harang's mind came in the fifth inning when an official review turned a fielder's choice at home plate into a run for the Reds. The review lasted almost five minutes and knocked Harang out of sync, something he said he thought was evident from the second he retook the mound.
"That kind of changed the pace and feel of everything," Harang said. "The next hitter in I was behind 3-0 right away. It was just one of those things."
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg agreed, saying he noticed a change in his pitcher's demeanor before and after the review and added that he thought the lack of run support from the offense weighed on Harang a little bit as well. That being said, Sandberg acknowledged that the Harang he saw on Thursday wasn't the same Harang he has seen all season.
"He was a little off as far as up in the zone and missing spots tonight," Sandberg said. "So that was the one thing that was uncharacteristic of him."
For Harang, the loss carries a little more weight being that it was against Cincinnati, his home for eight seasons from 2003-2010. But after the game, Harang didn't seem too disappointed by the loss to his former team. Rather, he more so seemed driven to keep his pitches down and hit his spots next time.
"It's just one of those things you've got to rub it off and look forward to my next start against them," he said.
Nick Suss is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.