Ryan Zimmerman didn't make his fourth error last season until the 69th game of the year on June 23rd in a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles in which the misplay caused no harm to Washington Nationals' starter Edwin Jackson. E-Jax pitched around the error and completed the fifth of six scoreless innings he worked that day before Adam Jones' leadoff home run in the seventh went out for the O's only run of the game. That was a day before Ryan Zimmerman received a cortisone shot that ended up turning the Nats' third baseman's season around.
The Nationals' '05 1st Round pick committed his fourth error in 14 games tonight in Miami, Florida's Marlins Park, sailing a fairly routine throw to first that put Placido Polanco on with one down in the fourth and had Adam LaRoche once again reaching into the basepath.
The error came on Haren's 48th pitch of the night, he'd throw 26 more that inning, giving up back-to-back singles by Greg Dobbs and Justin Ruggiano that brought Polanco around to make it 1-0 Fish. One out later, Adeiny Hechavarria hit a three-run blast over the left field fence and the Clevelander bar to a lucky fan who'd driven down from Canada to watch the Marlins beat the defending NL East champs 8-2. The pitch Hechavarria hit out was a letter-high 1-1 splitter that the 24-year-old former Toronto Blue Jays' prospect crushed for his first home run of the year.
Haren gave up three singles and a bases-loaded walk that forced in the Marlins' fifth run before he was lifted 19 pitches into the fifth at 94 overall in 4.1 innings in which he allowed seven hits, seven runs, three earned and the walk to Dobbs, which was the first he surrendered this season. "He was awfully good, gave up one hit through the third inning," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "And just one little miscue and then a couple little hits and then a bomb. Then the roof kind of caved in a little in the next inning, but he's making progress."
Three starts and 13.1 IP into his 1-year/$13M dollar deal with the Nationals, Haren has an 8.10 ERA, a 6.78 FIP, one walk (0.68 BB/9) and 12 Ks (8.10 K/9), and he's given up five home runs, a few of them questionable in Great American Ballpark, but all of them counting just the same. The velocity that had many concerned doesn't seem to be an issue so far, but the command?
"[Haren is] throwing the ball good. He's got good velocity," Johnson told reporters last week, after Haren's second start with the Nats, "That was the one thing that was missing last year. But it's command, it's all about command. Making your pitches. He was up a lot today." Haren gave up 10 hits and three runs in that start. "He's still not where he wants to be I'm sure," Johnson said after the game.
Talking about the 32-year-old right-hander's third start vs the Marlins tonight, the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said he thought Haren pitched "a lot better," against the Fish. "He was locating his pitches," Johnson said, "The one error and then he seemed to kind of lose it a bit. And we didn't seem to swing the bats too good and just one of those days." The Nationals' manager said he thought Haren was, "... throwing the ball hard and he threw some pretty good breaking balls," but gave credit to the Marlins' batters. "They've got some pretty good hitters over there," Johnson said, "and they're bound to bust out and obviously they did."
According to reporters on the scene in Miami, Haren was not happy:
Dan Haren: "I'm searching right now. I'm searching for answers." #NationalsTalk— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) April 17, 2013
Dan Haren admits he's searching. "Something's got to change on my part... It's not this hard."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) April 17, 2013
Dan Haren ran out of gas. On why he's been inconsistent: "I'm searching for answers. I gotta do better."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) April 17, 2013
As for the Ryan Zimmerman error, Johnson said, "That was an easy throw. He took his time and it just got away from him." Asked if there were any lingering issues with the shoulder which was surgically repaired following a season in which Zim struggled with inflammation around the AC joint, Johnson said his third baseman might still be working his way back to 100%.
"With what he went through over the offseason and the rehab he's had," Johnson explained, "I said it was going to probably not feel completely comfortable until probably June. But he's made a lot of great throws. And a couple of them made mistakes and guys hit the ball out of the ballpark and that kind of exacerbates the error, but if we do what we're capable of doing around an error that doesn't ever happen. It just magnifies it." Losing to the Marlins, who are 3-11 after the win, also magnifies the issues the Nationals are dealing with early this season. It also left them 4-1 against their NL East rivals from Miami after five games vs the Fish.