Much better stuff from Haren (Rendon provides some insurance)

Prior to tonight, the last two times Dan Haren took the mound, his night was over before he could sniff the fourth inning.

Haren allowed nine runs over 2 2/3 innings in a loss to the Mets on Aug. 31, then surrendered five runs over three innings in a loss to the Marlins on Sept. 6.

Tonight, Haren has allowed just one baserunner through his first three frames, holding the Mets hitless and striking out four.

Haren has worked quickly and needed just 42 pitches (27 of which have been strikes) to get through three.

As always with the veteran right-hander, location is key. Haren got beat his last two outings because he was leaving balls up and out over the plate. Tonight, he’s worked down in the zone and spotted his pitches on the edges, and the Mets haven’t been able to do much of anything offensively.

Their lone baserunner came on a Josh Satin walk back in the second inning. Haren then struck out Matt den Dekker and got Travis d’Arnaud to ground out to end the inning.

Haren’s cutter has been sharp and his splitter has been effective, as well.

The Nationals, meanwhile, have been equally as stymied against Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, who retired eight in a row after allowing a Denard Span single (extending his hitting streak to 22 games) and Jayson Werth double in the first.

Up with one out and runners at second and third, Bryce Harper struck out swinging, and Ian Desmond followed by doing the same, ending the threat.

With the way Wheeler has thrown since then, you wonder whether that missed opportunity will come back to bite the Nationals later on.

We’re still scoreless in the fourth.

Update: Ryan Zimmerman is utterly locked in right now. And his solo homer in the sixth has given the Nats a 1-0 lead in the sixth.

Zimmerman smoked a liner just over the fence in left field and into the Party City Deck, marking the second time he’s visited that area this series. It also marks Zimmerman’s seventh homer in nine games.

He’s now up to 22 longballs on the season, this after he was at just 15 just 10 days ago. Yeah, my math is excellent.

He’s turned his season around in a hurry, and he’s got the Nats on top tonight.

Haren, meanwhile, is now through six scoreless innings, with eight strikeouts.

An impressive bounceback performance from a guy who had gotten back to some bad ways his last two times out.

Update II: Davey Johnson loves giving his starting pitchers a chance to get a win, and he often strategically times when he’s going to take a starter out of a game based on the score. He always looks to get his pitcher a favorable decision.

Tonight, Johnson lifted Haren after six scoreless innings with the Nats holding a 1-0 lead, despite the fact Haren had thrown just 86 pitches.

Haren has struggled his last two times out, and by pulling Haren now, Johnson will give his veteran righty a shot at a win. But it also means he’ll need nine outs from his bullpen on a night when Haren was cruising.

Update III: The Nats had been 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position tonight going into Anthony Rendon’s eighth-inning at-bat, but Rendon provided a clutch hit and gave the Nats some much-needed insurance.

Rendon’s two-out double to center in the eighth scored Desmond and Adam LaRoche, boosting the Nats’ lead to 3-0.

Xavier Cedeno and Drew Storen combined to work a scoreless seventh, and Tyler Clippard will now work the bottom of the eighth. And the Nats are six outs from a five-game winning streak.

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