As a starting pitcher, when you have a season-high strikeout total and allow just four hits, you have a good chance of winning a game.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, Saturday night was not one of those games.
Nationals starter Dan Haren struck out 10 batters, but two of the four hits he allowed were back-to-back-homers in the second inning that set the tone for the Phillies.
Haren did manage to keep his team in the game. The Nationals were able to come back and tie the game, 3-3, but eventually lost to the Phillies, 5-3. Haren did not factor in the decision.
What Haren did do was pitch better than he did last weekend in San Diego. He acknowledged that the Phillies home runs by Dominic Brown and Erik Kratz changed the complexion of the game quickly. Philadelphia led 2-0 after two frames.
“They came up aggressive, obviously, two first pitch homers,” Haren said. “First pitch curveball to Dominic Brown. He is seeing the ball really well right now. (Eric) Kratz got me on the first pitch too. I was trying to be aggressive like I was previous, but those balls got a little bit too much plate.”
Manager Davey Johnson said catcher Kurt Suzuki could not believe what Brown was able to do with that pitch.
“Suzuki was amazed Brown hit that ball,” Johnson said. “The ball Kratz hit was a cutter that hung over the middle of the plate. The only thing about the breaking ball is it might have been outside, but it was up. That is a mistake too.”
“I thought the curveball that Dominic (Brown) hit was up and off the plate, but credit to him,” Suzuki said. “I didn’t think he could do much with that pitch. He is swinging the bat well right now. Sometimes you have to tip your hat and move on.”
Johnson said the 10 strikeouts were a good sign for Haren after surrendering seven runs and nine hits against the Padres. It was the 14th time in his career Haren had hit double-digit strikeouts. It was also the best total for any Nationals pitcher so far this season.
“I thought he threw the ball good,” Johnson said. “He had a little rough outing on the road. He pitched a good ballgame, he kept us in it. I still had some fresh guys in the ‘pen the opportunity so they could show what they could do, rather than take him any farther. It was looking pretty good until Drew (Storen) walked a guy and gave up a hit over the bag.”
Suzuki agreed that Haren can build off of this start, especially following consecutive losses to the Dodgers and Padres on the road.
“Great outing, he was a lot more crisp today than he was in San Diego,” Suzuki said. “He threw some good splits, curveball was down. When it was down, it was good, the cutter was good. His command was really good. That is the Dan I am used to seeing. I have seen him for a number of years now. Every time I see him, he is like that.”
Haren believes it was a steady foot forward, and he feels he is more consistent now than he was after a 1-3 start to the season.
“My thing is to keep the team in the game,” Haren said. “Today I kept us in there. They scratched off a couple at the end, I just got to give us a chance to win. That is the way I have been my whole career.”