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Not as impressive statistically or aesthetically as the twin one-hitters turned in by Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann the previous two evenings, but important for Haren as he settles in with his fifth major league team.

“Some other guys have started out with a couple bad ones and come back and he needed the same thing,” said Washington manager Davey Johnson. “That club is a good hitting club. And you’ve got to make pitches. He made good pitches. I was impressed. That’s a good start.”

Good enough to serve as a building block going forward, for sure. And don’t discount the boost an early offensive outburst provided Saturday.

Haren drove in the first run of the game himself with a second-inning cue shot to right, and by the end of the third he was working with a 4-0 lead. After the Reds broke through for a run with a Votto double and Phillips single in the fourth, Bryce Harper answered with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning.

That rocket into the Nats bullpen gave Harper nine homers and 18 RBI in April, both team records for the season’s first month. Haren, like everyone else in the clubhouse, merely shakes his head in amazement at his precocious teammate’s abilities.

Throughout a big-league run that began in 2003, the right-hander hasn’t often been the type to leave mouths agape. But he has made a career out of reliability, and he has inched back in that direction through the course of his five starts this year.

“My confidence has been building ever since the first game, getting pounded in Cincinnati,” Haren said. “From then on, my confidence has gotten better and better, more and more. Today, I know I’ll feel good coming into the next start. When I took the ball today, I felt like I was going to win.”