Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 8/4/13
The harder he tried the more the solution evaded Dan Haren. He watched video to find a mechanical flaw. He pored over sabermetric statistics hoping they might reveal a fresh answer or at least a measure of solace. He switched grips and altered the speed of his pitches. Nothing brought back the pitcher he used to be. Haren made a decision as he spent 15 days on the disabled list in late June the result of which reverberated again Saturday night in the Washington Nationals’ 3-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Haren chose simplicity. Keep the ball down and just pitch he told himself. The approach turned Haren’s season around and continued to reap dividends as he steamrolled the Brewers for seven scoreless innings over 102 pitches at Miller Park allowing four hits and two walks with six strikeouts. Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks cracked a double to lead off the game. He would be the last Brewer to reach scoring position against Haren. “Going on the DL was just kind of a chance to regroup” Haren said. “Physically I felt fine. It kind of allowed to just hit reset and cut the year into to two parts and leave the first part behind.” The best start of Haren’s season anchored the Nationals’ second straight win. Wilson Ramos clobbered his seventh home run. Adam LaRoche blistered an opposite-field homer just his second hit in eight games. Before he left in the sixth inning with a minor groin tweak that may hold him out Sunday Jayson Werth swatted another two hits and scored the Nationals’ first run. Tyler Clippard set up Rafael Soriano’s 28th save. The Atlanta Braves won their ninth straight game holding the Nationals’ deficit in the National League East at 111 / 2 games. But the Nationals could revel in Haren’s revitalization which Ramos abridged nicely: “Everything’s down” he said. The performance followed the same script Haren had used since he came off the disabled list July 8. He peppered the lower half of the strike zone and used caution when necessary — he stranded Weeks for example after striking out Jean Segura and pitching around Brewers cleanup hitter Jonathan Lucroy. In 82 innings before his DL stint Haren allowed 19 homers. In 30 innings since he has yielded two. “I’m trying to keep the ball in the park honestly” Haren said. “I’m getting a few more groundballs than I was. I’m really focusing on if I’m going to miss miss at the bottom of the strike zone.” Haren was not just efficient; he was downright nasty. Carlos Gomez whiffed so wildly at one two-strike splitter he fell to one knee and his helmet fell off. Gomez caught the headgear and walked back to the home dugout with it tucked under his arm. “He was trying to hit it 500 feet” Haren said. “A lot of pitching is trying to use aggressiveness against them.” When Haren landed on the disabled list he was arguably by the sheer numbers the worst starter in the majors. In the five starts since he came off the DL Haren has punched up a 2.40 ERA. If he can muster another two months like that the Nationals will feel far less distressed about the one-year $13 million deal they gave him in December.
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