After allowing three home runs and five runs in his last start, one in which Haren admitted that he felt he was letting everyone down, Haren appeared poised to find some welcome order. Earlier in the day, the disappointing Nationals received encouraging news on various fronts. Their depleted roster could soon have some of its key starters back. Bryce Harper’s left knee didn’t undergo surgery and had no structural damage, and instead received injections. Ross Detwiler could rejoin the starting rotation on Thursday and Stephen Strasburg is slated to follow on Sunday.
Haren could provide more. He did well to start in the unfriendly conditions for a pitcher. The temperature at first pitch was a blazing 95 degrees, a dry heat that makes it harder for pitchers to grip the ball because there’s not even a drop of moisture. That, coupled with the thin air and band box of a stadium, would seem to have spelled trouble for Haren.
The Post Sports Live crew discusses the possibilites of why Bryce Harper had a brace on his knee after seeing Dr. James Andrews on Monday.
Insight on the Nationals and all the latest news from Post reporters Adam Kilgore and James Wagner.
Through the first four innings, Haren kept his pitches on the edges of the plate and low in the strike zone. He struck out five, at one point retired 10 straight and allowed only two hits. Then, in the fifth inning, his pitches began drifting up or catching too much of the heart of the plate.
A fifth-inning leadoff walk to Wilin Rosario was followed by Colvin’s homer. He then yielded a single, double and Gonzalez’s blast.
Relievers Erik Davis and Fernando Abad held down the Rockies in the following two innings, but Drew Storen surrendered three runs, including another home run to Colvin, in the eighth inning.
At the plate, the Nationals’ offense did little and the struggles have stretched into the third month of their season. Washington ranked near the bottom in the majors in several major offensive categories entering Tuesday’s games: 27th with a .234 average, 29th with a .291 on-base percentage and 26th with a .375 slugging percentage.
Last year’s Nationals, too, were horribly sluggish offensively to start the season. What sparked the improvement, however, was a trip last June to Colorado. The Nationals posted double-digit run totals in three of the four games. Before Tuesday’s game, Johnson joked that he hoped this trip to hitter-friendly Coors Field would produce the same results. It happened in only one inning.
Against Chacin in the second inning, Ian Desmond led off with a walk. Anthony Rendon singled to center. With one out, Haren’s bunt put both Desmond and Rendon in scoring position. Denard Span roped a change-up to right field to plate both runs. The Nationals would score only one more run after that.
The Nationals would retreat to a quiet clubhouse following another loss, none more puzzled than the man who started the game on the mound for them.