“We’ve just kind of been hovering around .500, win a few, lose a few,” Haren said. “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 be playing this mediocre.”
The Nationals had won twice in a row leading into Saturday evening, and the next two days they responded with five runs and two losses. Injury has played a role. After he ran into a wall in Los Angeles, Bryce Harper has been out of the lineup four times, missing the last two games in San Diego. Harper continues to receive extensive treatment on a swollen left knee, Manager Davey Johnson said, and his status for the series opener in San Francisco will be determined Monday.
“We just need to get everyone healthy,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “I don’t know if Bryce is going to be able to play or what’s going on with that.”
Adding to Harper’s absence, Jayson Werth has been on the disabled list since May 3. Their subs, so good last year, have mostly slumped and the Nationals’ lineup has stalled outside the middle. Adam LaRoche and Zimmerman have driven in 19 runs this road trip; all other Nationals hitters have driven in five.
“You have to have a lot of patience sometimes in this job,” Johnson said. “The middle of the lineup is swinging the bat very good. Other guys, it looks like they’re starting to come around. I like the way the pitching has been. Sometimes, it just takes time to jell.”
Starts and stops have defined the Nationals’ first two months, and few represent that better than Haren, the primary culprit Sunday afternoon.
Haren had accumulated momentum over his previous four starts, winning three games and pitching well enough to win Tuesday in Los Angeles. The Padres shelled him, recalling the first four starts of Haren’s Washington tenure, which had left his ERA at 7.36. He allowed seven runs in five innings on nine hits, few of them cheap, and two walks.
“I’m definitely disappointed,” Haren said. “My confidence was high. But baseball is a very humbling game. It will bring you down when you feel up. The best thing to do is just try to forget about it, as hard as it is. Just move on to the next one. I’ve been throwing the ball well. I’ve been having a good feeling about how things are going out there. I kind of put aside the struggles of the first few weeks of the season. I can’t let it bring me down. I got to give us a chance next time.”