“He’s an unbelievable pitcher,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “He’s the best in the game, in my opinion.”
Despite being so thoroughly dominated, Dan Haren kept the Nationals in the game and, somehow, they could have tied it in the ninth inning with one swing. With two outs, Adam LaRoche singled to end a 10-pitch at-bat. Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly marched to the mound and, drenched in boos, hooked Kershaw. Reliever Kenley Jansen came in and simply whiffed Tyler Moore, the Nationals’ 12th strikeout of the night.
Moore, who also struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning, made the most glaring outs Tuesday night. But he had company. Second baseman Danny Espinosa went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, dropping his average to .175 on the season as he tries to fight out of a 2-for-25 slump. As a team, the Nationals finished with a .230/.292/.370 slash line.
“There’s a few guys on the ballclub who are not doing the things they’re capable of doing,” Johnson said. “They’ve been struggling off and on all year and we just need to right the ship. I know it’s been an issue. There’s progress. The middle of my lineup’s doing a lot of good things. But some of the other guys are not doing the things they’re capable of doing.”
The Nationals’ flailing rendered the continued resurgence of Haren moot. Coming off three consecutive wins, Haren allowed just two runs on four hits in seven steady innings. Over his last four starts, Haren has lowered his ERA from 7.36 to 4.76. With the Atlanta Braves losing in Arizona, the Nationals could have surged into a first-place tie in the National League East for the first time since April 6.
Haren pitched through a minor scare. In the fifth inning, Haren pulled up short as he attempted to cover first base on a groundball, forcing LaRoche to sprint to the bag. Haren’s left foot caught on the mound, and as he rolled his ankle, pain shot up his leg and into his back. Last year, back problems landed Haren on the disabled list.
Haren walked gingerly back to the mound, where head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz and pitching coach Steve McCatty visited him. Haren stayed in, though, and retired the final seven batters he faced.