How different would things be for the Washington Nationals if they got the Dan Haren they've had for the last six starts following a DL stint throughout the first half of the season? They'll never know, but even the pitcher has wondered. In his last 37 innings on the mound, the 32-year-old, 11-year veteran has posted a 2.43 ERA. Opposing hitters have put up a .198/.255/.282 line and hit just two home runs (0.49 HR/9) off the right-hander over that stretch after Haren, who signed a 1-year/$13M deal this past winter, put up a 6.15 ERA in his first 15 starts, over which opponents had a .306/.340/.548 line with 19 HRs (2.09 HR/9) in 82 innings.
Haren told the Washington Times' Mike Harris in an article this week that he had, in fact, asked himself if the new additions like himself and Denard Span have been the difference between last year's division winner and this year's .500 team, but he's doing his best now to give the Nationals what they need after a rough start to his tenure in the nation's capital.
Haren loaded the bases in the top of the first inning this afternoon in the series finale with the San Francisco Giants, then popped Pablo Sandoval up to end a 27-pitch opening frame. Giants' starter Ryan Vogelsong needed just 12 pitches to retire the Nationals in order in the bottom of the inning, with Bryce Harper striking out looking at a 2-2 slider to end Nats' half of the inning.
Gregor Blanco reached on a one-out grounder that tied Anthony Rendon up and got by the Nats' infielder. E:2. No. 13 of the year for the converted third baseman, but the Giants' pitcher was first-pitch swinging with Blanco running in the at bat that followed and Vogelsong's fly to right started an inning ending 9-3 DP with Jayson Werth making the catch and a one-hop throw to Adam LaRoche at first base. 13-pitch inning for Haren. 40 overall after two.
Jayson Werth entered today's game 3 for 8 in the series with San Francisco, and he was 4 for 9 in two games+ vs the Giants and 20 for 37 so far in August after he singled to center to start the Nats' second, but two outs later he was still standing on first when Anthony Rendon doubled to left and off the wall on one hop on a 2-2 slider. Werth took third on the hit and Kurt Suzuki got the intentionals to bring Dan Haren to the plate with the bases loaded, but Vogelsong got him swinging to end a 25-pitch inning. 0-0 after two.
Dan Haren was up to 58 pitches overall after an 18-pitch, 1-2-3 third. Ryan Vogelsong started the bottom of the inning at 37 pitches. His 38th was lined back up the middle for a leadoff single by Denard Span. Span stole his 11th base of the year in 16 attempts with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate, and Zimmerman battled back from down 0-2 to take a walk from the Giants' starter in a 10-pitch at bat. Bryce Harper K'd swinging through a 1-2 curve for the first out of the frame after battling Vogelsong for seven pitches and Jayson Werth grounded into a force at second for out no.2. But Werth stole second to put himself in scoring position and then scored easily when Ian Desmond doubled to left-center to make it 2-0 Nats. Adam LaRoche singled to left on a 3-0 fastball to bring Desmond around and the Nationals led 3-0 after a 39-pitch inning by the Giants' right-hander.
Given a 3-0 lead to work with, Dan Haren went out and threw an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the fourth which had him up to 66 total after four scoreless innings pitched. Two outs after a leadoff single by Kurt Suzuki, Ryan Zimmerman took a two-out walk from Ryan Vogelsong to push the Giants' starter up to 92 pitches and end his day with runners on first and third and two out. Jose Mijares came on in relief and got a fly to left from Bryce Harper for the third out of the inning. 3-0 Nationals after four.
Giants' left fielder Roger Kieschnick walked to start the fifth, then took third when Ian Desmond caught a line drive off Gregor Blanco's bat and fired a throw by Adam LaRoche and into the stands. No DP. Desmond's 14th E was a two-base error. With Kieschnick on third, pinch hitter Brett Pill K'd looking at a full-count cutter and Marco Scutaro lined to right to end Haren's fifth scoreless after 17 pitches. 83 overall after five scoreless innings. Still 3-0 Nats after four and a half. Jayson Werth hit an opposite field double off the out-of-town scoreboard in right to start the Nationals' half of the fifth inning. Adam LaRoche took a one-out walk, and both he and Werth advanced on a pick attempt that Giants' righty Guillermo Moscoso threw into center, but Kurt Suzuki got an intentional walk and Haren flew to right to end the fifth inning.
Dan Haren's 88th pitch was rolled out to short by Brandon Crawford for the first out of the sixth. Haren's 90th sailed out to left field and into the visitor's bullpen for a one-out home run by Brandon Belt that got the Giants on the board. 3-1 Nats after Belt's 15th. Two quick outs later, Haren was through a 15 pitch inning at 98 overall after six innings of work. Bryce Harper lined a single to right with two down in the bottom of the inning and Jayson Werth walked to put two on, but Ian Desmond K'd swinging to end the bottom of the sixth with the score still 3-1 Nats.
• Dan Haren's Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 98 P, 63 S, 5/7 GO/FO.
Fernando Abad took over on the mound in top of the seventh and retired the Giants in order in a 16-pitch top of the seventh inning. There was a scary moment in the Nats' half of the inning, when Adam LaRoche lined back to the mound and off Giants' reliever Sandy Rosario's chest, but he walked off the mound and appeared to be okay and Javier Lopez came on to get the next two outs. 3-1 Nats after seven.
Tyler Clippard gave up a one-out single by Marco Scutaro in the top of the eighth, but Brandon Crawford popped an 0-2 change up to short for out no.2 and Anthony Rendon made a diving play at second to rob Brandon Belt of a hit and end a scoreless eighth after 16 pitches by Tyler Clippard. 3-1 Nationals. Javier Lopez came back in the bottom of the eighth and got three quick outs from pinch hitter Scott Hairston, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman to end a quick inning of work.
"Pitch it, Soriano! Pitch it, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano!" Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth looking for save no.32 of 2013. Buster Posey singled to center on a 1-2 slider to start the ninth. Soriano threw an 0-2 fastball by Hunter Pence for out no.1 in the ninth. Pablo Sandoval flew to right for out no.2. Roger Kieschnick stepped in with two down and got up 3-1 but Soriano got a swinging strike two with a fastball outside and... missed with the full-count heater, issuing a two-out walk. Pinch hitter Hector Sanchez stepped in as the go-ahead run, fell behind 0-2, got to a full count... and hit a three-run home run. 4-3 Giants on Sanchez's first home run of 2013.
Bryce Harper lined out to a diving Brandon Crawford for out no.1 of the Nats' ninth. Sergio Romo got Jayson Werth swinging and a groundout to short by Ian Desmond ended the game. 4-3 Giants.