A strong start from veteran pitcher Dan Haren. A big night from the bullpen with Drew Storen locking down the seventh, Tyler Clippard handling the eighth and, after a little scare, Rafael Soriano earning the save in the ninth. Just like they drew it up this winter. After an 11-1 drubbing by the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night, the Washington Nationals earned a solid 4-2 win on Tuesday that was not without its issues (4 for 14 w/ RISP), but Dan Haren continued to impress anyone paying attention to what the 32-year-old right-hander has accomplished since reluctantly going on the DL with "shoulder weakness" at the end of June and the Nats bounced back from a bad loss with a win in Chicago.
In nine games and eight starts since coming off the disabled list on July 8th, Haren is (4-2) with one save (more on that in a minute) and a 2.16 ERA in 50 IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a .193/.244/.298 line. After giving up home runs regularly early this season, Haren's allowed just four home runs in his last fifty innings of work, including the one by Donnie Murphy last night that accounted for the only run the Cubs scored on any of the Nationals' pitchers in the second game of four for Washington in Wrigley Field.
"Haren pitched a heck of a ballgame," Davey Johnson said. "After closing and all the stuff he went through a couple days ago, I was counting on him to give me six innings, and he came in after five, I thought I was going to have to go to the bullpen, which I didn't want to. Some guys still need a couple more days, but he said he felt fine and he went out and pitched a great sixth inning."
Haren was up to 89 pitches after five innings against the Cubs, and had a two-out error and single prolong the fifth, but he struck out the side for his fourth, fifth and sixth Ks on the night, then went back out and threw a 14-pitch sixth to end the night after 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 103 P, 71 S. "It's been unbelievable," Johnson said of the right-hander's bounce-back since coming off the DL. "He's been really pitching good and been a mainstay. And I think he still had some in the tank. If he hadn't had that closing session, he could have probably even gone farther today."
That "closing session" was Haren's first relief appearance since 2011 and just the 11th of his 11-year MLB career. The right-hander offered his services on Saturday night when the Nationals found themselves shorthanded after Stephen Strasburg's ejection. "Dan came up to us when Stephen got thrown out of the game and he just said, 'Hey, if you guys need me?' bench coach Randy Knorr told reporters after Haren pitched the 15th inning of the Nats' win over the Braves and earned the first save of his career. "He said he would go out and do it," Knorr said, even after the veteran had gotten his work in for the day. "So, proud of him for even doing that. A lot of guys wouldn't do that after throwing a bullpen."
Haren's impressed everyone with the Nationals. "He's shown he's a quality pitcher," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said after last night's win, "and I think the adjustment to a new league, and feeling better with his arm, having some little difficulty with it, but he's bounced back and pitched great."
Has he pitched well enough to attract the attention of teams heading to the postseason?
"No question about it," Davey Johnson said, "I mean, for a pennant run, he's a big game pitcher and he's showing it every time he goes out now."
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked if there was any interest in Haren during his appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s "The Mike Rizzo Show" this morning. "Obviously there's the waiver process," Rizzo told hosts Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier, "He's a veteran starter that's pitching extremely well and teams that are in the hunt that are in the market for a starting pitcher have touched base with us, but nothing is imminent. We like the way Dan's pitching. He gives us a chance to win every time out and he's a guy that would be tough for us to move."
• Nats Nightly = District Sports Page + Federal Baseball Talking About Haren, the Nats' pen and the 4-2 win over the Cubs:
More from Federal Baseball:
- Nationals Option Ian Krol To Triple-A; Ross Ohlendorf Coming Off DL To Face Cubs
- Game 125 WPA: More LOB means higher OBP, amirite? Nats 4, Cubs 2
- Nationals 4-2 Over Cubs In Wrigley: Dan Haren Strong Again Tonight In Chicago
- MLB: No Suspensions For Stephen Strasburg Or Davey Johnson Following HBPs; Ejections vs Braves
- Nationals' Tuesday Night Lineup: Adam LaRoche; Denard Span Sit vs LHP In Wrigley