Serving up four home runs and losing 15-0 in Cincinnati was an inauspicious Nationals debut for veteran Dan Haren. Four weeks later against the same Reds, Haren found himself in a pitcher-friendly park, aided by the force of a powerhouse team gathering momentum.
In a 6-3 victory Saturday afternoon Haren delivered six solid innings and was the beneficiary of two brilliant plays by centerfielder Denard Span and an offense that collected 10 hits as Washington won its third straight.
Limiting the Reds to six hits and no walks while fanning five, Haren was unspectacular compared to the work of Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, who limited Cincinnati to one hit each of the previous two nights.
“I was kind of disappointed when I gave up the second hit,” Haren joked.
But his work fit the definition of a quality start, the first in five attempts for Haren (2-3), as he settles in to a new role after serving as the staff ace for Oakland, Arizona, and Anaheim.
“I’m obviously happy with the way it went,” Haren said. “It sucks it’s take so long to have a good outing. I finally feel like a part of the team. I gotta be like this or better the rest of the year.”
Haren faced the minimum nine batters in the first three innings before wavering. Span’s running catch against Votto in the sixth inning kept Haren comfortably in front.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to just have a good start,” Haren said. “I don’t want to make too much of it. But my confidence has been building. Ever since the first game, getting pounded in Cincinnati, I think from then on my confidence has gotten better and better, more and more.”
Manager Davey Johnson was happy with the work of Haren.
“That was more like him,” Johnson said. “He changes speeds, moves the ball around, just pitches.”
Wall ball with Tarasco
After failing to come up with two balls hit to the wall by the St. Louis Cardinals early this week, Span got help from coach Tony Tarasco before the opening game of the Cincinnati series on Thursday afternoon.
“I told him to come out and hit me some balls close to the wall so I can get familiar with where I’m at out there,” Span said.
Nobody knows wall ball better than Tarasco. His most famous moment as a player came when he was with the Baltimore Orioles, trying to field a towering drive to right-field by Derek Jeter in a playoff game at Yankee Stadium. With a baseball glove 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the edge of the wall and snatched the ball from Tarasco in one of baseball’s most legendary and controversial plays, which the Orioles believed should have been overturned by fan interference.
Span no Paul Blair
As a second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1960s and early 1970s, Johnson played with one of baseball’s all-time best centerfielders, Paul Blair, and was asked how his former teammate compares to Span.
“Nobody reminds me of Paul,” Johnson said. “Paul played real shallow. But we never had any balls hit over his head. He could go back with the best of them. [Span] covers lots of ground easy out there. He’s fun to watch.”