WASHINGTON - Detroit Tigers starter Doug Fister was trying to last at least six innings for his fifth straight start. But he never got close. He lasted just three innings as the Washington Nationals beat the Tigers 5-4 on Thursday.
"I didn't execute. It was that simple," said Fister, who allowed eight hits and four earned runs. "It was lack of execution. I did not keep the ball down. I got a lot of the plate and they made me pay."
Dan Haren won his third straight start, and first baseman Adam LaRoche, who also had a rough April, had RBI singles in the first two innings as the Nats swept the two-game series between preseason playoff favorites.
LaRoche has now hit in six games in a row and was 9-for-15 in his past five games before he struck out in his last two at-bats Thursday.
The Tigers (19-13), who open a series at home Friday with Cleveland, had never lost to Washington in six tries before Wednesday. Detroit ended the road trip 4-2 as it fell behind 5-1 after two innings.
"We got in a hole early on," said Jim Leyland, the Detroit manager. "We just came up short. They played pretty good when they had to. I thought we hit the ball pretty decent both games."
"He wasn't sharp. You could see that," Leyland said of Fister. "His curveball wasn't good. He wasn't at his best."
Haren (4-3) allowed four runs in six innings as Washington (19-15), which begins a home series with the Cubs on Friday, won for the sixth time in seven games.
"This is an awfully good hitting ball club. But when he had to make pitches, he made pitches. He didn't really get hurt too much by the middle of the lineup," Washington manager Davey Johnson said of Haren.
Said Haren: "I was able to wiggle myself through. It's just funny how it works. I held the one-through-four guys in check, but the bottom of the lineup just killed me."
Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth to get his 12th save for Washington, which also got one scoreless inning each from Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen out of the bullpen.
"We are on the same page," Soriano said.
Told that he had 12 saves already, Soriano said, "That's a lot."
Detroit pulled to within 5-4 on a three-run pinch-hit homer against Haren in the top of the sixth by Matt Tuiasosopo, who was signed by the Tigers as a minor league free agent prior to this season. It was his first career pinch-hit homer.
"We were looking for a quick strike and we got it," Leyland said.
"I'm frustrated obviously with the homer I gave up but really happy with the team coming away with a two-game sweep against a club of that caliber. I think we're headed in the right direction now," Haren said.
The Nationals scored two runs in the second to take a 5-2 lead as Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche had RBI singles off Fister (4-1).
Fister was replaced in the fourth by Darin Downs, a lefty who pitched two scoreless innings before Luke Putkonen came on in the sixth. The Tigers used closer Jose Valverde in the eighth even though they trailed by one.
Detroit had cut the lead to 3-1 in the top of the second as Fister had an RBI single to score Jhonny Peralta.
Washington scored three runs in the first with an RBI fielder's choice by Bryce Harper and RBI singles by LaRoche and Ian Desmond.
Haren allowed four homers in his first start for Washington on April 5 against the Reds. But in his last start he allowed just one run in eight innings in a win May 2 at Atlanta.
Haren entered the game with an ERA of 1.76 since the start of the 2008 season against the Tigers, the best mark of any pitcher with at least four starts against Detroit.
NOTES: Right fielder Jayson Werth, bothered by a sore hamstring, was not in the starting lineup for the Nationals. He has not played since May 2 ... The hit by Fister was the third of his career and just his second RBI. His first start at Nationals Park came when he played for Seattle ... Washington is now 2-6 alltime against the Tigers - the last team that the Nationals defeated since moving to the nation's capital in 2005 ... Haren entered the game with an ERA of 5.01 while Fister had an ERA of 2.48 before his outing on Thursday ... Washington pulled off a made-for-TV blooper in the top of the fifth as Haren caught a liner off the bat of Torii Hunter. Austin Jackson was way off second but the throw by Haren went right between shortstop Desmond and second baseman Danny Espinosa into center field, but Jackson could not advance.