Before Dan Haren's fifth start of the season, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson discussed what the 32-year-old right-hander had to do to be successful on the mound after the 32-year-old right-hander struggled through his first few outings while managing to show signs of improvement. The Nats' skipper pointed to Jordan Zimmermann's 91-pitch, complete game shutout as an example all of his pitcher's could look to as the best way to go deep in their starts and keep the opposition at bay.
"[Zimmermann] used four pitches," Johnson said, "and threw them over. I mean, 91 pitches in nine innings? And that's the kind of thing I want to see going here. [Heck], everyone I threw out there had trouble against the Reds last time, but again, the one thing you don't want to get into -- from a hitting standpoint, if I'm facing anybody, the more pitches they throw that miss, the better chance I've got of hitting them, because I've seen them and every pitch you see you get a chance to time it. You get to see the movement. Release point. So then when he does throw it over, you're more apt to be on."
"The guys that come right at you -- the 'Catfish' Hunters that come right at you with the 88 mph straight fastball, you pop it up and the next time you pop that up or hit a ground ball and before you know it he's got nine innings in on you and you say, 'Damn, he didn't have much, but I didn't get nothing.' And that's pitching."
Haren's velocity, which concerned some interested teams this winter, didn't concern the Nationals' manager. "I don't care," Johnson said, "I'm fine. It's his location and change of speeds." With the move back to the NL after pitching for the LA Angels from 2010-12, Johnson said, Haren was still making adjustments. "Coming to a new league, new team with a pretty good pitching staff and guys throwing hard, he mentioned this Spring, 'I didn't start throwing 90 [mph] until September, so I think on his list was to get to that arm strength/velocity early and in doing so he got away from what made him successful and that was locating and change of speeds, so I look to see more of him doing that today, but in attack mode, not in a defensive mode."
Jordan Zimmermann said he watched Gio Gonzalez have success against the Reds on Thursday and followed his example and said Haren could do the same, telling reporters last night, "He's watched both games and he's going to come out tomorrow and attack these guys and we'll see what happens."
What happened was Haren's best start yet with Washington. In his first start of the season in Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark, the Reds knocked the 11-year veteran out after four innings in which he threw 78 pitches (19.5 per IP) and surrendered nine hits, four home runs and six runs total. Today in Nationals Park, the right-hander held the Reds to six hits (one a HR by Shin-Soo Choo) and two runs total in six innings in which he threw 88 pitches overall (14P average per IP). The Nationals got out to a 6-1 lead early and held the visitors off for a 6-3 win.
Haren's fastball sat around 88-90, touching 91, his two-seamer, splitter and cutter came in a few mph slower and he mixed in his curve which sat around 79. "That was more like him," Johnson said of his starter after the game. "It was just like what we were talking about before. He's still throwing plenty hot in [terms of] velocity but he just changes speeds, moves the ball around, pitches. And that's what he did today, which was nice to see." Johnson said his starter's location was "much better," and, "when he's like that he's tough."
"That club is a good hitting club," the Nats' skipper said, "You've got to make pitches and he made good pitches. I'm impressed. It's a good start."