We saw two sides of Dan Haren tonight.
For most of his first five innings of work, we got the sharp, effective Haren. That Haren has good control, works quickly and shows impressive movement with his sinker and offspeed stuff.
Haren looked especially good in his first two innings, as well as the fourth, where he was able to work around a couple hits and let his defenders put in work behind him.
In the sixth inning, we saw the other Haren - the one that was on the mound through the veteran right-hander's first three starts as a National.
After throwing 87 pitches through five, Haren was sent out to work the sixth, but he failed to retire a batter. He hit Matt Holliday leading off the frame, allowed a Carlos Beltran single to right and then gave up a Yadier Molina RBI single to right-center.
Molina's knock gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead, but Haren was left out there to face David Freese. He walked Freese on six pitches, and that finally forced manager Davey Johnson from the dugout.
Luckily for Haren, Craig Stammen turned in a heck of a performance in relief during that sixth inning, getting Jon Jay to ground into a 3-2-3 double play and then striking out Shelby Miller after an intentional walk to Nats nemesis Pete Kozma.
Haren's final line: 5+ IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 Ks, HBP, 98 pitches, 57 strikes.
It's possible Haren was merely tired in the sixth and just didn't have enough gas left in the tank. The three walks and hit-by-pitch, however, are a bit unusual for Haren, who is known for his control and ranks fifth all-time in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
It was a step in the right direction for Haren given that he entered tonight's game with an 8.10 ERA, but I'm sure the 32-year-old still will find plenty of issues with his outing, especially the way it ended. Ten baserunners in five-plus innings is not what you want to see.
Update: The Nats had a chance to tie the game or move ahead in the eighth, putting two on with one out, but Adam LaRoche grounded out to first and then Ian Desmond struck out looking on a 98 mph heater right down the pipe to end the inning.
Denard Span and Bryce Harper were left in scoring position, and the Nats still trail 3-2 heading to the ninth.
Drew Storen comes in for the ninth. He'll face Pete Kozma leading off the inning.
Of course he will.
Update II: The Nats managed just five hits tonight and drop the opener of their three-game series with the Cardinals, 3-2.
Over their last four games, the Nats' bats have really gone quiet. They've averaged five hits and 2.25 runs per game over that four-game stretch.
Haren gets the loss tonight and is now 1-3 on the season.
The Nationals have now dropped seven of their last 10 games.