Homers hurt Haren again (Nats lose 4-2, Braves clinch NL East title)

Dan Haren is done after six innings of work this afternoon, and if not for two mistakes that turned into home runs, the veteran right-hander might’ve turned in a pretty strong outing.

As it is, it will still officially go down as a quality start, but Haren and the Nationals trail 3-0 in the sixth.

Haren gave up a two-run bomb to Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning on a 90 mph fastball over the fat part of the plate, and two innings late, it was Christian Yelich crushing an 85 mph cutter right down the middle for a solo shot.

The fastball to Stanton was on a tee, and the cutter to Yelich didn’t cut.

The two home runs give Haren 28 longballs allowed in his 29 starts this season, tied for fifth-most in the majors.

Despite the home runs, the Nats are still very much in this game, although they haven’t been able to muster much of anything off Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler.

The Nats have just two hits through five innings this afternoon, both of which were singles. After each single, the following batter grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Koehler came into today with a 3-10 record and a 4.51 ERA. But he’s befuddled the Nats so far today.

Update: The Nats finally got to Koehler in the sixth when Ryan Zimmerman smacked a two-run homer to the red seats in left center, cutting the Marlins’ lead to 3-2.

It’s Zimmerman’s 26th homer of the season, extending his team lead.

Denard Span drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive, and Zimmerman got the barrel to a 2-1 fastball.

In 20 games this month, Zimmerman has 11 homers and is batting .333/.385/.738. What a finish to the season he’s having.

Update II: Ryan Mattheus came on for the seventh inning, faced three batters and allowed a big insurance run.

He allowed a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Juan Pierre (which shockingly moved Pierre past Joe DiMaggio on the all-time hits list with 2,216). Pierre then stole second base. He then moved to third on a wild pitch. Mattheus walked Chris Coghlan, and then Donovan Solano hit a sac fly to left to bring in Pierre and make it 4-2 Marlins.

Not what manager Davey Johnson was looking for from Mattheus.

A loss this afternoon would be crushing for the Nats’ already slim playoff hopes. Cincinnati currently has a 7-3 lead over Pittsburgh in the sixth, and a Reds win combined with a Nats loss would leave the Nats 5 1/2 games back of both NL Central teams going into the nightcap of tonight’s doubleheader at Nats Park.

Update III: That’ll do it.

The Nats fell to the Marlins 4-2 in game one of today’s doubleheader. They were out-hit 12-4 and outside of Zimmerman’s two-run homer in the sixth, they failed to get a runner into scoring position all game.

With the loss, the Braves have clinched the NL East title. If the Reds-Pirates score holds, the Nats will be 5 1/2 games back of both teams going into tonight’s game.

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