The Washington Nationals haven't seen enough of this Dan Haren and he knows it and acknowledged as much when he talked to reporters after throwing seven strong innings against the New York Mets in today's 4-1 win:
Dan Haren: 'Obviously we’re a few games under .500 and a big reason for that is me, among other guys, but I take a lot of the blame.' #Nats— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) July 27, 2013
Haren's been this good before in a Nationals uniform, holding the Atlanta Braves to one run on four hits in eight innings of work back in early May, or in his recent outing in Miami (6.0 scoreless, 3 H), but the right-hander who signed a 1-year/$13M dollar deal this winter improved to just (5-11) with today's win (his first since May 9th) and his case is not one where the won/loss record misrepresents what a pitcher has accomplished this year like it is with Haren's teammate, Stephen Strasburg (5-8, 2.85 ERA).
After his 19th start of the season, Haren has a 5.49 ERA, a 4.59 FIP, 21 HRs allowed (1.80 HR/9), 19 walks (1.29 BB/9) and 93 Ks (7.97 K/9). Asked what was different for him today, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson talked about how Haren's worked to get a wider gap between the speed of his fastball and cutter.
"He had a bigger spread in his pitches, which is great," Johnson said, "I think that's more him."
"He did that against Atlanta," the Nats' skipper continued, "And he hadn't been doing it."
Haren's location down in the zone was there today as well.
"Much better," Johnson said, "And, I mean, very consistent. He didn't have any blips on the screen, like one bad inning where that came up. He was outstanding."
So can Haren keep it going this way for the rest of the season?
"He's good," Johnson told reporters. "He's a veteran. He's got it now."
The Nationals' manager said he's much happier with what he's seen from Haren in recent starts and the Nats need to have him pitch like he did today going forward. "He's been throwing the ball, I think he's been throwing the ball after the Break better than the first half, by far."
With Ross Detwiler injured and dealing with a disc issue in his back, Johnson said Haren's an even more important part of the Nationals' rotation.
"We've got to have him," Johnson said, "To be consistent and win streaks and stuff like that, we've got to have them all throwing the ball well."
It didn't hurt that the Nationals provided some run support for Haren with three home runs including the first of the season from Denard Span, who took a 90 mph first-pitch fastball from Gee to right in the bottom of the second.
Span's teammate, Bryce Harper, who hit his 15th of the year in the third, said he hopes it doesn't go to Span's head:
"Hopefully he doesn't get too cocky and stays humble." --Bryce Harper on Denard Span's first homer of the year.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) July 27, 2013