In the midst of what’s shaping up to be the worst season of his career, Dan Haren experienced a rare outing consisting of mostly positives the last time he took the mound.
The similarly underachieving Washington Nationals hope there’s more where that came from.
Haren will be on the hill as visiting Washington looks to send the Milwaukee Brewers to a third straight defeat Saturday night.
The Nationals signed Haren to a one-year, $13 million deal in December to complete a rotation already featuring Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
Haren (5-11, 5.49 ERA), though, has been a major disappointment for a Washington team that sits below .500 in August despite high expectations after winning the NL East in 2012.
The right-hander had gone 2 1/2 months without a victory before allowing one run and three hits in seven innings of a 4-1 win over the Mets last Saturday. The Nationals (53-56) had lost his previous 11 starts, with Haren going 0-8 with a 6.18 ERA in that stretch.
“It’s obviously been a long time to have that winning feeling after a game,” Haren said. “It definitely feels good. I was finally able to maintain momentum, something I haven’t done all year.”
Haren hasn’t faced Milwaukee since 2009 while with Arizona, but he’s 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA in two starts and one relief appearance versus the Brewers, who were held in check for the second straight game Friday.
After falling to the Cubs 6-1 on Wednesday, Milwaukee (46-63) had only five hits - one being Jonathan Lucroy’s homer - in a 4-1 loss to the Nationals. It went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
“We made some mistakes again today,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “You get behind on these guys and if you go into the ninth inning and you have to score three runs to tie it, it makes it tough. We need to play better.”
Washington had scored one run while dropping each of its last two games before Bryce Harper hit a solo homer and drove in two runs Friday. Harper is hitting .340 since the All-Star break.
“That’s just Harp,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I expect stuff like that out of Harp. He had a good game.”
Jayson Werth went 3 for 4 and is hitting .421 with five homers over his last 12, but Adam LaRoche went hitless again and is now 1 for 26 over his last seven. He’ll look to bust out of his slump against Brewers starter Donovan Hand, who is coming off his longest outing as a major leaguer.
Hand (0-2, 3.56) has a 3.65 ERA in five starts this season, also making 12 relief appearances. He will be making his third straight start after giving up three runs in six innings of a 6-5 loss at Colorado on Sunday, marking the longest outing for the rookie since pitching as a starter in Double-A in 2009.
“I got to go six (innings), so hopefully we can build on that next time,” Hand said.
The right-hander made his third start against Washington on July 4, giving up three runs in five innings of an 8-5 loss. LaRoche and Werth each had RBI singles while Ian Desmond went 3 for 3 off Hand.
Washington has won four of the last five meetings at Miller Park after losing the previous eight.