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Washington Nationals' Sunday Lineup: Dan Haren vs The San Diego Padres In Petco Park

The Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres wrap up their four-game series this afternoon with Dan Haren on the mound for the Nats against the Padres' Andrew Cashner. The Nationals look to take three of four on the road while the home team tries to earn a split.

Bob Levey

Talking to MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern about the Washington Nationals' offseason acquisitions, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo praised the work 32-year-old right-hander Dan Haren has done to improve with each start as a National. "After a couple of poor starts to begin the season," Rizzo said, "his last four of five starts have [gone] extremely well and I think you've seen him getting better and better and better each and every start. I think you take away that one start in Cincinnati where we lost 15-0, I think his numbers are extremely good and [he] really has given us the support at the bottom of the rotation that we expected and we hoped for."

With Haren's outing in Great American Ballpark included, which saw him surrender nine hits and six runs, four on home runs (and yes, some just made it out; Great American Smallpark, etc.), the right-hander is (4-4) with a 4.76 ERA, six walks (1.19 BB/9) and eight home runs (1.59 HR/9) allowed in 45.1 IP in which he's struck out 31 (6.15 K/9). Subtract that start and Haren's (4-3) with a 3.92 ERA, six walks (1.31 BB/9), 26 Ks (5.66 K/9) and four home runs (0.87 HR/9) allowed in 41.1 IP. In three starts in May, Haren's down to a 3.00 ERA, 3.65 FIP and a .213/.241/.300 line against after posting a 6.29 ERA and 5.45 FIP and having opposing hitters put up a .349/.395/.589 line against him in his first month+ with the Nationals.

Haren takes the mound for the ninth time this season this afternoon in Petco Park where the veteran of 11 MLB seasons is (2-2) with a 3.49 ERA, six home runs (0.95 HR/9), 11 walks (1.75 BB/9) and 53 Ks (8.42 K/9) over nine games, eight starts and 56.2 IP in his career. Here's the lineup that will be supporting Haren against the San Diego Padres:

Ian Desmond's getting what is reportedly a scheduled day off, so Danny Espinosa's in at short. So far on the Nationals' road trip, the Espinosa is 1 for 20 with 11 Ks. As the Nats' GM explained in the MLB Network Radio interview, the team needs to see a more consistent approach from the 26-year-old infielder, "... not only physically, but preparation-wise and the thought process." In measuring his value, however, Rizzo said, you have to consider that he's a, "... guy that's playing second base that's your backup shortstop and you can throw at shortstop and not miss a beat defensively, that's [an] extremely important player to have." Espinosa makes his first start of the year at short this afternoon in the series finale in San Diego. 4:10 pm EST from Petco Park.