Dan Haren's ten strikeouts Saturday night against the Philadelphia Phillies were the most by any Washington Nationals' starter this season and twice as many as Haren had collected in any of his other starts this year. Haren's 10 Ks were the most he's had since May 14th last season when he struck out 14 Seattle Mariners for a career high. The one-time Cardinals, A's, D-Backs and Angels' starter has recorded 10 Ks nine times in his 11 year career in the majors with 11 Ks twice and 12 Ks twice, though he reached double digits just the one time last season and now just once with Washington in tonight's 5-3 loss.
The Nats' 32-year-old right-hander surrendered the first two of three runs he allowed on back-to-back home runs by Phillies' slugger Domonic Brown and catcher Erik Kratz in the top of the second. Brown hit a 78 mph first-pitch curve out over the plate out to right for a solo home run on Haren's 24th pitch of the game and Kratz took no.25 for a ride in the next at bat crushing an 86 mph cutter and making it 2-0 early in the second game of three for the Phillies in D.C.
"[Kurt] Suzuki was amazed that Brown hit that ball," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "and the ball Kratz hit was a cutter that hung right over the middle of the plate. The only thing about the breaking ball, it might have been outside but it was up, so that's a mistake too."
Jonathan Pettibone doubled with two down in the fifth for the first hit since the home runs and scored the third run for Philadelphia when Jimmy Rollins doubled in the next at bat to drive the Phillies' starter in a half-inning after the Nationals had rallied to tie the game at 2-2 with one and two-out singles by Steve Lombardozzi and Denard Span, respectively, in the bottom of the fourth. Four of the next five Philly hitters went down and Haren's 10th start of 2013 ended after 88 pitches, 62 of them strikes with the score tied at 3-3 courtesy of an Adam LaRoche solo home run in the Nationals' fifth.
"I thought he threw the ball good," Davey Johnson told reporters. "He had a little rough outing on the road [in San Diego] and he pitched a good ballgame, kept us in it and I still had some fresh guys in the pen I wanted to give an opportunity to show what they could do rather than take him farther. And it was working pretty good until Drew [Storen] walked a guy and then gave up that ball right on the bag."
The "ball right on the bag" was a two-out eighth inning single by Delmon Young that got by Adam LaRoche at first and into right scoring Michael Young all the way from first base when Bryce Harper's throw home came in up the third base line. Storen took the loss when the Phillies took the lead after Henry Rodriguez had kept it tied at 3-3 with a scoreless inning of work in the seventh. Though Haren had a relatively low pitch count and was rolling before he was lifted, Davey Johnson didn't second-guess his decision to pinch hit for Haren with two down in the bottom of the sixth.
"[Haren's] going to be a max of about a hundred [pitches]," Johnson explained, "And I got a chance to pinch hit and also [have] some guys in the bullpen that need work... and also coming off a rough outing, give me a good six innings, we're in the ballgame and hopefully go ahead."