In each of the Nationals’ three wins to sweep the series with the Chicago White Sox, manager Davey Johnson went to Rafael Soriano to close. Even with a three-run lead in Thursday’s 7-4 victory and Soriano coming off back-to-back appearances, Johnson chose Soriano (five saves) over Drew Storen.
“I was tempted to go another route, but he hasn’t cried uncle yet,” Johnson said.
After some struggles, it was a strong night for the bullpen. Ryan Mattheus surrendered an RBI double to Adam Dunn, but whiffed Paul Konerko with two runners in scoring position for the final out in the sixth, then got the White Sox out 1-2-3 in the seventh. Tyler Clippard followed with a perfect eighth and Soriano closed it out.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in the bullpen,” Johnson said. “It’s been a little spotty but I’m not worried about it.”
Haren expects results will come
Nationals starter Dan Haren yielded 10 hits in five innings, but limited the White Sox to three runs as he stranded runners in scoring position in each frame. In addition to his work in the clutch, Haren (1-1) didn’t walk a batter. In nine innings this year, Haren has allowed 19 hits and nine runs, but also has no walks and 10 strikeouts.
“I haven’t really put it all together yet,” Haren said. “I actually feel really good. I feel better than I did at any point last year physically. I think the ball’s coming out of my hand better than it was last year. It’ll get there.”
Haren said his goal in his next start will be to keep the ball down.
Braves up next
The teams with the two best records in the National League will square off this weekend as Washington (7-2) plays host to Atlanta (8-1). The Braves have been propelled by outfielder Justin Upton, who is hitting .353 with six home runs. He is united with brother B.J. Upton who is off to a slow start, hitting .103 with one home run.
Lefty Paul Maholm (2-0, 0.00 ERA), who opposes Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 0.82 ERA) on Sunday, has helped key the strong start. On Friday, Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (0-0, 9.00) faces Nats’ lefty Ross Detwiler (0-0, 0.00). On Saturday, Tim Hudson (1-0, 3.27) goes against Stephen Strasburg (1-1, 4.38).