By John Solomon
How the government's punishing of the exposure of official wrongdoing can linger for years
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Sunday was the latest example of how the Nationals' bullpen may be a bit off-kilter as they pass the quarter mark of the 2013 season. The personnel is exactly the same as it was when the Nationals opened the season, but the way they've been used hasn't always been consistent — and neither has the performance.
Forty-four games into the 2013 campaign, the Nationals have never overcome more than a two-run deficit. As the Padres' assault continued to mount on Sunday, the Nationals needed plenty more than two.
The Nationals' victory over the Tigers on Thursday was their sixth in the past seven games as they improved to 19-15.
The good news for the Washington Nationals as they trickled into the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon, was that Jayson Werth was able to test his right hamstring on Monday and felt strong.
Saturday, the old Haren was more in evidence. He kept a scuffling Reds lineup off balance throughout a season-best six-inning performance, leading the Nats to a 6-3 win and at last feeling like a real contributor.
A way to force something good out of another downer of a night was sitting right there for Nationals pitcher Dan Haren, waiting like a hanging curveball to be swatted out of the park. Haren wanted nothing to do with it.
If the season ended Thursday, the Nationals even with all their "problems" would qualify for the playoffs. Which sounds just as stupid to say now as it does to say the season is already off the rails.
Washington opened its 2013 season Monday at Nationals Park with a 2-0 victory over the Miami Marlins. No offense to all the others who took part. The day was about The Top Pick Twins and all about The Top Pick Twins.
White cinder block walls lead the way. Past the security guard in need of a cup of coffee just after 8 a.m. on a cool March morning. Through the makeshift clubhouse kitchen at Space Coast Stadium where three plug-in griddles serve up pancakes and eggs with toppings stored in plastic containers.
The grease boards, as he calls them, are stored in Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo's office. The markers he uses on them have been worn out, replaced, and worn out again.
Bryce Harper reached base for the 10th consecutive plate appearance Tuesday afternoon, walking in his third at-bat after getting hits in his previous nine, to bring his spring training batting average to .476.
A lot of this spring for Dan Haren is about acclimating himself and adjusting to new things. A new team, new facilities, a new league and new catchers. Then there are the new things he's trying to add to a repertoire that has made him one of the most reliable starting pitchers in the major leagues over the course of his career.
Extra work, even a few pitches Tuesday against the Houston Astros, means more to Haren this spring with twice-daily visits to the training room and a routine designed to avoid repeating his injury-riddled 2012 campaign.
"I don't think he ever has a bad day," reliever Christian Garcia said on a recent spring morning. "He's just so nice."
As a pitcher who possesses one of the 10 best strikeout-to-walk ratios in baseball history, Haren's game starts and finishes with impeccable command of his pitches. It was unlike him, then, when he started his first spring game as a Washington National falling behind the first two hitters 1-0, and the third 3-0.
"We've just kind of been hovering around .500," Haren said. "Win a few, lose a few. We're not healthy. That's one thing... We haven't hit our stride yet but I'm sure it's coming. We have too much talent to keep playing this mediocre."
"Way too many mistakes," Haren said, though he was hardly alone in making them. "The ball was up all day. It doesn't matter if you're playing the Padres or the Tigers. If you leave balls out over the middle of the plate and up, they're going to hammer it."