Dan Haren missed with a 1-2 four-seamer, but came back with a 2-2 two-seamer and got Chicago White Sox' leadoff man Alejandro De Aza looking first out of the Haren's first start in the nation's capital after signing with Washington this winter. The Nationals' 32-year-old right-hander missed low with a 1-2 fastball to Alex Rios that catcher Wilson Ramos dropped, and then missed inside with a 2-2 heater before the Sox' right fielder doubled to left and off the outfield wall on a 92 mph 3-2 fastball with two down. A wild pitch by Haren moved Rios to third, but Adam Dunn grounded into the shift to end a 19-pitch inning by the newest member of the Nats' rotation.
Ryan Zimmerman said this Spring that pitchers would often have to throw 15 pitches just to get through the Nationals' top two of Denard Span and Jayson Werth. 27-year-old White Sox' righty Dylan Axelrod threw 16 pitches to the Nats' leadoff man and bearded leader and Axelrod's one-out, 10-pitch at bat against Werth ended with the Nats' right fielder singling to left after fouling off four two-strike pitches. Werth stole the Nationals' first base of the year one out later with Ryan Zimmerman up, and took third when Tyler Flowers' throw to second sailed into center. There were two on when Zimmerman took a walk from the Sox' starter in front of Adam LaRoche, and the Nats' first baseman's bloop single to left fell in for a two-out RBI hit. 1-0 Nationals. Axelrod was up to 40 pitches before he got out of the first.
An 84 mph splitter got Alejandro De Aza swinging for the first out of the second and Dan Haren's second K after Paul Konerko singled to left to start the frame. Jayson Werth got close enough to a fly to right by Conor Gillaspie that Konerko could only wait and take third on the double to right, but Konerko scored from third on a one-out groundout by Tyler Flowers and tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the frame. Dan Haren threw a 2-2 fastball by the opposing pitcher to end the second with his third K. The 15-pitch inning had him at 34 after two. A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 second by Dylan Axelrod had him at 54 total. Still 1-1.
Jeff Keppinger lined a 2-1 two-seamer to left for a one-out single in the White Sox' third. Alex Rios doubled for the second time tonight when he hit a sharp grounder by a lunging Ryan Zimmerman at third base, but Haren threw a high fastball outside by Adam Dunn for his fourth K of the game and the second out of the inning. Haren hit Paul Konerko while trying to pitch around him, loading the bases for Alexei Ramirez, then struck the shortstop out with an 0-2 splitter down low that ended a 21-pitch frame with Haren at 55 overall.
Denard Span singled to start the Nationals' third, stole second with Jayson Werth up, took third on a fly to right and scored on a Bryce Harper single through the right side of the infield. 2-1 Nationals. 1 for 2 at the plate tonight for Span, 1 for 2 on the basepaths this season for the speedy center fielder. Ryan Zimmerman walked on four pitches in the next AB to put two on for LaRoche, who took four more outside the zone and took his base to load'em up for Ian Desmond, whose sac fly to center gave the Nats a 3-1 run lead.
Conor Gillaspie worked the count full and hit a bloop single to left to start the fourth. One out later, with the opposing pitcher bunting, Adam LaRoche made a diving attempt and came up empty, allowing Axelrod to reach first safely while Gillaspie moved up to third. An RBI single by Alejandro De Aza followed and it was a one-run game, with the score 3-2 Nats. A Jeff Keppinger single to left tied it up, driving the opposing pitcher in to make it 3-3. A groundout to short by Alex Rios moved two runners into scoring position for Adam Dunn, who popped up to the infield to end the top of the fourth. The 29-pitch inning had Haren at 84 overall.
Haren doubled with one down in the bottom of the fourth, jogging around to second with his first hit as a National, and one out later he took third on a two-out single by Jayson Werth before scoring on a wild pitch that just missed Bryce Harper's back foot. 4-3 Nationals. The Sox put two on in front of Ryan Zimmerman, and the Nats' cleanup man cleared the bases with an opposite field double to right that made it a 6-3 game. Lefty Hector Santiago came on to face LaRoche, and got the Nationals' first baseman swinging to end the fourth.
Alexei Ramirez doubled to right with one down in the fifth and tagged and took third when Conor Gillaspie flew to center, but a pop to short by Tyler Flowers ended the top of the inning after 17 pitches by Haren who was at 101 overall after five in his second start of 2013. Hector Santiago stayed on to throw a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, and Ryan Mattheus replaced Haren on the mound to start the top of the sixth.
Dan Haren's line: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 101 P, 65 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
Ryan Mattheus gave up a one-out single by Alejandro De Aza, and put Alex Rios on with a two-out walk. Adam Dunn stepped to the plate as the tying run, and hit an opposite double of the left field wall to drive De Aza in and get the White Sox within two at 6-4. A full-count slider got Paul Konerko looking and ended Mattheus' first inning of work after 25 pitches. Denard Span and Bryce Harper walked in the bottom of the sixth, but they were both stranded when Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to let Hector Santiago off the hook.
Ryan Mattheus retired the White Sox in order in the seventh, striking Conor Gillaspie and Tyler Flowers out after a line drive to center by Alexei Ramirez. Still 6-4. Ian Desmond singled with one down off right-hander Matt Lindstrom, but Chad Tracy grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3. Tyler Clippard got two quick outs on a fly to center by DeWayne Wise and a line out to first by Alejandro de Aza and a weak grounder to second by Jeff Keppinger ended an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. Still 6-4 Nationals.
An infield single by Denard Span and a HBP on Jayson Werth brought Bryce Harper up with two down in the home-half of the eighth. Right-hander Jesse Crain got ahead of Harper, but gave up an RBI single on a 1-2 curve Harper lined to right. Span scored, but Werth got thrown out at third by Alex Rios. 7-4 Nationals after eight.
Rafael Soriano got Alex Rios swinging for out no.1. ONE!!! Adam Dunn battled in an epic ninth inning at bat, before grounding out on the 11th pitch he saw. TWO!! Paul Konerko singled to right with two down, but an Alexei Ramirez grounder back to the mound ended the top of the ninth. 7-4 final. Nationals win.
Work's done. Untuck that jersey, son!
Nationals now 7-2.