When the Nats signed Dan Haren they thought the floor was going to be what he gave the Angels in 2012, 4.33 ERA over 30 starts. Perfectly acceptable for a fifth starter. What they got was much much worse. In his 18 starts coming into today’s game Dan Haren had a 5.79 ERA over 98 innings and worse than that the Nats were 4-14 when he pitched. This was not the Dan Haren they signed up for, but a strange thing happened at the ballpark today. Nats fans saw a ghost.
Instead of the common “keeping the team in the game” start the Nats wanted from Dan Haren on a consistent basis Nats fans were treated to the dominating classic Dan Haren. The pitcher who is fifth all time in career K/BB ratio and has had a borderline Hall of Fame career up to this point. The Dan Haren that has pitched at Nats Park and for the Nationals much of this season is not the real Dan Haren. A seven inning one run on three hits and one walk with six strikeouts is much closer to the pitcher Dan Haren has been for most of his career as a starter with the A’s, Diamondbacks, and Angels.
If Dan Haren’s start was a return to normal the so was Dillon Gee’s seven inning four runs on six hit performance. For most of his career against the Nationals Gee has had them mastered. His overall numbers against the Nats are mystifying. A career 4.06 ERA pitcher shouldn’t be able to dominate any one team in the way he has the Nationals. Gee’s 6-1 record and 2.57 ERA is the best he has against any team he has faced more than five times, and today was a bit of regression to the mean. Given enough time against any one team and Gee’s stats were bound to normalize at some point.
In the bottom of the second inning Ian Desmond provided the first bit of normalization when he parked a two out solo homer into the Red Porch. This was followed by Denard Span hitting his first homer as a National over the out of town scoreboard in right. The Nats didn’t have to wait long for more runs after that as Dan Haren would hit a double over the head of Juan Lagares to lead off the third inning and get driven home on Harper’s second homer in three days.
Overall it was a good day to be a Nats fan, but sad in other ways. This was the team that Nats fans were promised and haven’t seen all season. Perhaps this is the start of something, but as 212 was spent searching for turning points towards the negative 2013 may be spent searching for turning points towards the positive. The Nats won’t get back in this race by worrying about anything other than one game at a time, and today’s was a good one. What tomorrow’s will be is up to tomorrow.