Since returning from the DL on July 8th, Dan Haren is (4-2) with a 2.53 ERA, 11 walks (1.74 BB/9) and 56 Ks (8.84 K/9) in 10 games, nine starts and 57 IP for the Washington Nationals. He's held opponents to a .208/.255/.329 line, while surrendering just six home runs (0.95 HR/9), two in his last start, after giving up 19 HRs (2.09 HR/9) over the first 15 starts and 82 IP of his one-year deal with the Nats. Haren makes his 25th start and his 26th appearance of 2013 tonight in Nationals Park, where the Nationals and New York Mets go at it again after last night's tightly-contested 3-2 game which saw the visiting team win for the 6th time in 13 games between the NL East rivals so far this season.
NY's win last night stopped the Nats' three-game win streak, but the Nationals, who are trying to make a late-season run at the second Wild Card spot, have won 8 of their last 10 and 14 of their last 20 and they find themselves 6.5 games out in the race. As Randy Knorr, who was filling in for an under-the-weather Davey Johnson last night, told reporters after the Nationals' loss, "You can't expect to go out and win the last 30 games. Somebody's going to stop us one day and you just have got to pick it up and go after it again."
Opposing Haren on the hill tonight is NY Mets' 23-year-old rookie Zack Wheeler, who gave up six hits and five runs in 4 2/3 IP when he faced the Nationals in his third major league start back on June 30th.
Wheeler was done after 89 pitches, 54 of them strikes that afternoon in the Mets' home. Davey Johnson said afterwards he was impressed with what he saw from the '09 1st Round pick (SFG). "You've got to like his arm," Johnson said after what ended up a 13-2 Nats' win in Citi Field. "He's got a good fastball and good breaking stuff. But it's command. It's always going to be command up here. No matter how hard you throw, you've got to locate and that's been a little bit of his problem."
After walking 28 batters (4.97 BB/9) in his first nine starts and 50 2/3 IP, Wheeler, who walked 176 (4.05 BB/9) over four seasons and 391 1/3 IP in the minor before the Mets called him up, has walked just five (1.75 BB/9) over his last four starts and 45 2/3 IP, while holding opposing hitters to a .247/.282/.351 line and posting a 2.45 ERA over that stretch.
Haren too has been able to limit the walks this season. As the Nationals' pregame notes point out, among pitchers with at least 20 starts, Haren's 24 walks are the fewest allowed amongst NL starters and second-fewest MLB-wide behind only the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price, who's walked just 21.
Here's the Nationals' lineup that will take the field behind Haren and take on Wheeler in the second game of three for NY in D.C.:
#Nationals lineup vs. NYM: Span 8, Zimmerman 5, Harper 7, Werth 9, Desmond 6, LaRoche 3, Ramos 2, Lombardozzi 4, Haren 1— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) August 31, 2013