WASHINGTON, D. C. -- Right-hander Dan Haren knew it would be difficult to upstage fellow starters Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman, who each allowed only one hit in the previous two games of the series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Haren (2-3) was good enough, allowing two earned runs and six hits in six innings with five strikeouts and no walks, and Bryce Harper hit his ninth home run as the Washington Nationals beat the Reds for the third consecutive game, 6-3, on a sun-splashed Saturday.
"I was kind of disappointed when I gave up the second hit (in the fourth inning)," Haren said with a wry smile.
Haren, in his first season with the Nationals, actually was able to out-do Gonazlez and Zimmermann in one phase of the game, driving in a run with a bloop single to right in the second inning.
"I was trying not to strike out, really," said Haren, who is batting .200. "Good things happen when you put the ball in play."
The Nationals (13-11) won their third game in a row in the four-game series after losing six consecutive home games.
The Reds (13-12) are 1-8 on the road this season, the fewest road victories by any major league team.
Cincinnati was victimized by Washington center fielder Denard Span, who made two big catches to prevent several runs.
"He saved four or five runs," Haren said.
Added Reds' manager Dusty Baker: "You don't usually see two web gems in one game. "We are putting the barrel on the ball. We are close" to breaking out of their hitting slump.
Haren (2-3), who allowed four home runs in a 15-0 loss at Cincinnati on April 5, gave up a solo home run to Shin-Soo Choo to lead off the sixth to make it 6-2.
"I finally feel part of the team," Haren said. "I got in a groove in the middle innings."
After a single by Zack Cozart, Joey Votto was robbed of extra bases when Span made a leaping catch at the fence in front of the Reds' bullpen in left-center.
Haren then induced Brandon Phillips to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the sixth.
Zach Duke took over in the seventh for Haren, who entered the game with an ERA of 7.36.
Duke was replaced with two out and two on in the seventh by Tyler Clippard, who gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Todd Frazier to make the score 6-3.
Clippard walked Choo to load the bases and after a visit by pitching coach Steve McCatty, the right-hander got Cozart to line out to Span in left-center to end the seventh.
"I didn't think he had a chance to catch that ball," Nationals' manager Davey Johnson said. "He out-ran it. When he hit it I thought, 'That's going to score three."
Drew Storen pitched the eighth and escaped a threat when he got Xavier Paul to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Closer Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for Washington for his seventh save.
Cincinnati starter Mike Leake (1-1) failed to go six innings for the first time this season.
"I wasn't able to put them away," Leake said. "They had a good plate approach."
Harper hit a two-run home run in the fourth off Reds' reliever Alfredo Simon, who took over for Leake, to give the Nationals a 6-1 lead.
Washington built a 2-0 lead in the second on back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Haren and leadoff man Span.
NOTES: Reds' left-hander Sean Marshall (tendinitis, left shoulder) returned from a rehab assignment and was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list, while LHP Manny Parra was put on the disabled list because of a strained left pectoral muscle before Friday's game. Marshall pitched a scoreless eighth. ... Washington's Wilson Ramos caught three innings and came to the plate twice (walk, fly out) in his first rehab appearance with Double-A Harrisburg at Bowie on Friday night. "The reports were good," Doug Harris, the director of player development for Washington, said Saturday from Syracuse. Harris said Ramos, who went on the 15-day disabled list on April 14 because of a left hamstring strain, should see play behind the plate Saturday night when Harrisburg plays at Bowie, Harris said. ... Washington manager Davey Johnson was the Reds' skipper from 1993-95. ... Xavier Paul entered the game in left in the last of the third for the Reds, replacing Chris Heisey, who left the game because of a strained right hamstring.