Dan Haren's 2013 season is starting to directly mirror his 2012 campaign.
Awful start to the season, DL stint in June/July, really strong finish.
It was that strong finish last season (Haren pitched to a 2.76 ERA over his final seven starts with 34 strikeouts to five walks) that convinced the Nationals that Haren still had plenty of left in the tank and led to them giving him a one-year, $13 million deal this offseason.
The way Haren has pitched the last month (he's the owner of a 2.43 ERA and .198 batting average against in that time) will go a long way towards guaranteeing he gets a decent free agent contract again this offseason, instead of what likely would have been a handful of offers for minor league deals had he continued struggling.
Would the Nats be open to re-signing Haren if he keeps this up? Anything's possible, but more than likely they just move on, much like they did with Edwin Jackson last offseason. Regardless, they'll enjoy watching Haren hit his stride for now.
"I'm happy for him because nobody wanted to do better than he did," Ryan Zimmerman said. "We've talked. It was kind of eating him up inside. He didn't come over here to pitch like he did in the first half. Since he came off the DL, his last six or seven starts, whatever it is, he has kind of thrown the ball like everyone knows he can throw the ball. I am happy the way he has kind of persisted and worked through that. Hopefully he can do it here for 45, 50 more games for us."
Haren isn't the only one to turn things around of late. After starting his big league career with a bang, hitting .354 through his first 26 games in the majors, Anthony Rendon had a month-long stretch where pitchers were starting to push him around.
Rendon hit just .163 with a lowly .505 OPS from June 27 through July 30, with just seven extra-base hits in 104 at-bats. Pitchers were starting to make adjustments on the rookie, pounding him inside and not allowing him to get his arms extended and drive the ball to the opposite field.
Lately, Rendon has been adjusting to the adjustments, and it's showed in the numbers he's put up.
The rookie has eight hits in his last eight games, three of which are for extra bases. He's driven in six runs in that time, has a .308 average and a .932 OPS, and last night, his two-run homer to center got the Nats started on their way to a 9-2 win.
"A lot of times they're pitching him in and even when he goes the other way on balls away, he's way back in here," manager Davey Johnson said, pulling his hands in. "Like that ball he hit (Friday night). It was a little bit away from him and he hit the ball more in the gap. But he's been making adjustments on balls in. That's where they've been pitching him and pounding him. And he's looking more, I think, in, and he knows he has more time away. So he's getting the bat in proper position on the balls in.
"He's been swinging the bat, after the prolonged slump in there, he's been swinging the bat as good as anybody out there."
In a season full of disappointments, Rendon's play in his rookie season and Haren's turnaround have been two positives. The Nats are enjoying watching each guy, one 23 and one 32, start to get things back on track.