In the fifth, Travis d’Arnaud nicked a dribbler down the third base line. Zimmerman charged, stutter-stepped and snatched the ball with his bare hand. On the run, he slung the ball from
his knees a low angle to LaRoche, another highlight-reel play.
“We ain't moving him to first, if that's what you're thinking, all right?” Johnson said.
Zimmerman’s defense supported Haren as he rebounded from an abysmal stretch. In his previous two starts, which came against the Mets and Miami Marlins, Haren failed to reach the fourth inning. Wednesday night, Haren did not allow a hit for the first three innings, stabilizing himself against a batting order that included a 3-4-5 of Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Josh Satin. “Seen better lineups in the Grapefruit League,” one NL scout said.
Lagares led off the fourth with a single, and Haren returned to shutting down the Mets. Between starts, Haren had tinkered with the grip of his splitter and practiced throwing it like a fastball rather than guiding it. As he used the splitter as a strikeout pitch, Haren retired nine straight hitters, whiffing four and showing no sign of wear. But when his spot in the order came up in the top of the seventh, Johnson pulled him and sent Steve Lombardozzi to pinch-hit.
“I'm not going to let him lose that game after pitching that great for six innings,” Johnson said.
Johnson told Haren he did not want to push him on an unseasonably hot and humid night. Also, two left-handed hitters loomed in the next inning for the Mets.
“I think the truth of it is, I lost his confidence a little bit after the last two games,” Haren said. “When I was rolling there in July and August, I told him when I wanted to come out and if I wanted to stay in. I lost his confidence a little bit, and I get it. He thought that was enough, and I'll go with him. Now, maybe I gained it back a little and next start maybe I can tell him I feel good enough to go for another one.”