Right-handed starting pitcher Dan Haren earned his first win in a Nationals uniform Thursday night leading Washington to a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox and a 7-4 victory. The theme of the night for Haren was dancing himself out of trouble, though it was an improvement from Friday night’s 15-0 loss in Cincinnati. Haren pitched five innings, gave up ten hits and three runs with five strikeouts in addition to throwing one wild pitch and hitting a batter.
Chicago fought hard to prevent the sweep, shelling the Nats with thirteen hits, but they weren’t quite as successful on the base path. The White Sox stranded eleven runners leaving the game in Washington hands if they were able to maintain the lead.
The Nats offense got to work early by scoring a run in the first. Right fielder Jayson Werth hit a one-out single off Chicago starter right-hander Dylan Axelrod. Werth played it smart while on the base path. He stole his first base of the season advancing to second but quickly rounded the bases to third on a throwing error made by White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers during third baseman Ryan Zimmernan’s at-bat. Werth went on to score on a RBI single hit by first baseman Adam LaRoche giving Washington their early one-run lead.
That didn’t last long though with the White Sox seeking a win to avoid the sweep. Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko scored on a groundout from Flowers to tie the game up in the second inning.
Washington continued to hack away in the third inning by tacking on a couple runs and a short-lived 3-1 lead. The hit parade continued with left fielder Bryce Harper hitting a RBI single to right-center bringing center fielder Denard Span around to score. Harper then second himself on shortstop Ian Desmond’s sacrifice fly to center field.
What’s been interesting during this three-game series is how scrappy these teams are – one team scores, the other fights back, and so on. It made the three-hour eighteen-minute game seem more like a horse race than a ballgame.
The chase for a win continued when the White Sox answered back in the top of the fourth inning. Third baseman Conor Gillaspie and Axelrod scored a couple of runs for Chicago tying the game back up again at 3-3. That was Haren’s weakest inning of the night. He gave up four singles in that frame alone.
The Nats answered back with a three-run rally in the fourth when Haren got his first hit with Washington – a one-out double to right field. Axelrod managed to get two outs and keep Haren on second until a wild pitched got past Gillaspie during Werth’s at-bat. Haren scored on that wild pitch and Werth went on to hit a single putting two men on the base path. Then, something strange happened. The White Sox chose to intentionally walk Harper with Zimmerman in the on-deck circle.
Manager Davey Johnson mentioned that this was one of the first times (if ever) the batter before Zimmerman was intentionally walked. Lit up from that, Zimmerman was out to prove himself and did just that – despite his slow start at the plate this season – with a two-RBI double to give the Nats back the lead .
Washington held on with the help of their bullpen which collectively gave up just one run in four innings of work. Closer Rafael Soriano gave up a two-out single but held the White Sox to recorded his fifth save of the season.