Haren, Nationals down 3-0 early (Nats lose 4-3)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Dan Haren doesn’t look very comfortable on the mound and the Nationals are down 3-0 after two innings at Champion Stadium.

Haren ended the first inning by striking out Justin Upton and having catcher Wilson Ramos throw Andrelton Simmons out attempting to steal third. But it was all downhill in the second inning for Haren.

Juan Francisco’s single and a Chris Johnson double set up a two-run single by Tyler Pastornicky down the left-field line. After Matt Pagnozzi fanned swinging and Tim Hudson skied to center, Simmons walked and Reed Johnson delivered an RBI single just past the glove of first baseman Adam LaRoche, making it 3-0.

Haren battled back and hip problems last year, but has told anyone who would listen that those maladies are behind him. But he doesn’t look he’s any closer to figuring things out than in his last two outings.

The Nationals had a rally going in the second, but ran themselves out of it. With two down and LaRoche on second after singling and advancing to second on a wild pitch, Danny Espinosa hit a ball sharply to right for a single. Third base coach Trent Jewett inexplicably opted to test right fielder Jason Heyward’s arm, and LaRoche was gunned down by 15 feet for the final out of the inning.

In the third, Denard Span reached on a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning, but was picked off first by Braves starter Tim Hudson.

Update: Haren has settled down after the second inning. He’s now through four frames and has retired the last seven hitters he’s faced, three by strikeout. He’s got five strikeouts on the game, matching his total for the previous two games.

Update II: Haren had retired 10 in a row before Justin Upton crushed the first pitch of the sixth inning over the scoreboard in left-center. It was a tape-measure poke that went over the 60-foot structure. After getting one more hit, Haren allowed singles to Chris Johnson and Pastornicky, and was pulled in favor of Craig Stammen.

Haren went 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out five. A mixed bag, for sure.

Stammen got out of the inning without further damage.

Update III: The Nationals trimmed the Braves’ four-run lead to 4-3 with three in the top of the seventh.

Ian Desmond drove in the first one with an RBI double. Espinosa followed with an RBI single and the third run of the frame came in when Ramos grounded into a double play.

Update IV: It’s all over. Braves 4, Nationals 3. Destin Hood gave the Nats life in the top of the ninth with a one-out single, but Ramos grounded out and Micah Owings fanned swinging.

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