Nationals Report

Haren tries to turn it around

It's been a roller-coaster ride already for Nationals starting pitcher Dan Haren. The team took a gamble when it let Edwin Jackson go in the offseason and turned a spot over to Haren, one of the game's steadiest pitchers for years but one finally showing signs of erosion.

His fastball velocity, never well above 90 mph anyway, had dropped, he finally spent some time on the disabled list with the Los Angeles Angels last season and there was the chronic hip condition that he'd pitched through his entire career. Haren was insistent that wasn't an issue, but some teams apparently weren't convinced. Washington gave Haren $14 million, so the front office thought he'd still be an asset in one of the game's best rotations. But after he got blown up in two of his first three starts, even Nats officials had to wonder if they made the right call.

Haren is starting to show positive signs, however. He made it through six innings against Detroit on Wednesday despite allowing nine hits and four runs. He gave up just one run in eight innings in a clutch start in Atlanta and two runs in six innings the start before that against Cincinnati.

MLB Storlylines

1Ump roast » It's been a rough season for the men in blue. This week, umpires in a game between the Indians and A's couldn't even get a call right when they went to video replay. An obvious home run by Oakland's Adam Rosales should have tied the game at 4 in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night. Instead, the crew, led by chief Angel Hernandez, saw something no one else did: a ball that didn't clear the fence. Cleveland held on for a 4-3 win. One day later in Houston, umpires let Astros manager Bo Porter change pitchers even though reliever Wesley Wright had started warming up. The Angels played the game under protest after the incorrect pitching change.

2Guthrie comes home » Jeremy Guthrie returned to the area Thursday and beat his former team, the Orioles, in Baltimore. It was a nice homecoming for a pitcher who has helped keep Kansas City relevant early this season in the AL Central. In fact, he's been among the top free-agent signings of the offseason. Guthrie is 5-0 with a 2.28 ERA. This is a player whose ERA had ballooned over 6.00 when he spent part of last year in Colorado and appeared finished before the Royals swiped him in a trade for Jonathan Sanchez. Three times on losing teams in Baltimore, Guthrie had an ERA of 3.83 or better, so maybe this shouldn't be a surprise.

3It's in the Cards » It might be time to anoint the St. Louis Cardinals the best organization in baseball. San Francisco might have two of the last three World Series titles, but the Cardinals have endured devastating losses of star players and are still thriving. Albert Pujols took his money and fled to Los Angeles. Chris Carpenter missed most of last season with a nerve issue and the rotation didn't fall apart. St. Louis made it back to the NLCS last season. The Cardinals rebuild the bullpen seemingly every spring -- closer Jason Motte is now likely out for the year -- call up solid prospects from the minors and just keep rolling. No wonder St. Louis is in first place in the NL Central.

Who's hot?

1. Jaime Garcia » The Cardinals lefty went eight innings with one run allowed in each of his last two starts.

2. Starling Marte » The Pirates youngster entered Friday hitting .321 with five home runs and 10 steals.

3. Paul Goldschmidt » Four homers, nine RBIs in a three-game series at L.A. for the D-Backs slugger.

Who's not?

1. Tim Lincecum » The two-time Cy Young winner has a 4.75 ERA and just two quality starts this season.

2. Albert Pujols » One an annual All-Star lock, the Angels first baseman is hitting just .238 entering Friday.

3. Joe Blanton » The veteran hurler is 0-6 with a 5.56 ERA so far in his first year with the Angels.