A quality start for Haren (Nats win third in a row)

Five outings into his Nationals tenure, Dan Haren has his first quality start.

After a rough start to the season, Haren bounced back with a nice outing today against a high-powered Reds lineup.

Haren went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits. He walked none and struck out five, throwing 88 pitches, 56 for strikes.

With Haren’s pitch count still fairly low, manager Davey Johnson could’ve opted to send his veteran right-hander out for the seventh, but Johnson is a fan of having his starters leave on a high note, especially those who are struggling.

Haren also was shaky in the sixth, allowing a solo home run to Shin-Soo Choo and a single to Zack Cozart. Joey Votto then followed with a fly ball deep to left-center, but Denard Span made a fantastic leaping catch at the wall that took extra bases away from Votto and saved Haren big-time.

That could’ve gotten the Reds on the comeback trail, but it was just a loud out. Haren then induced a 6-4-3 double play from Brandon Phillips four pitches later and got out of the jam.

The Nationals’ bullpen is rested after watching Gio Gonzalez work eight innings on Thursday and Jordan Zimmermann go the full nine last night, so Johnson will look to his relievers to finish this game off and get Haren his second win this season.

The Nats lead 6-2 going to the seventh. Zach Duke will be the first Nationals reliever called upon today.

Update: One fantastic catch wasn’t enough for Span today. He needed to make another.

With the bases loaded in the seventh and the Reds threatening to make this thing really interesting, Zack Cozart crushed a Tyler Clippard fastball into left-center. Off the bat, the ball looked certain to plug the gap, and if it got down, at least two runs were going to score. Heck, Choo might’ve even come all the way around from first to tie the game.

But Span got a great read on the ball off the bat and quickly broke into a full sprint. He covered serious ground and brought in the hot-shot line drive waist-high, keeping it a 6-3 game and allowing Clippard to let out a sigh of relief.

Span received a standing ovation from the Nats Park crowd as he trotted back to the home dugout. He deserves it. This has been a perfect example of why general manager Mike Rizzo went out and got Span this offseason - he’s got great range in center field and can turn a potential game-tying extra-base hit into a line-drive out.

Drew Storen will work the eighth for the Nats, with them holding a three-run lead.

Update II: Storen pitched out of a jam in the eighth, and Rafael Soriano notched his seventh save of the season as the Nats held off the Reds and picked up a 6-3 win.

Haren’s strong start, Harper’s big fly and Span’s impressive glovework led the way.

After four straight losses, that’s three wins in a row for the Nats, who are back to two games above .500, 13-11 on the season.

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