For Nationals' Dan Haren, better effort not enough in loss to Cardinals

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Right-hander frustrated with his results

Nationals pitcher Dan Haren has been a top-of-the-rotation starter through most of his career. He is not one to accept mediocre results.

So even with a better performance Monday night in a 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the right-hander wasn't thrilled with his effort. His team still lost. And that, in the end, is all that matters.

Yadier Molina smacked an RBI single in the sixth inning off Haren, and that proved to be the game-winning run. It was the first appearance for the Cardinals at Nationals Park since October's thrilling National League Division Series.

Haren, 32, was expected to help the Nats make a return to the postseason after signing a one-year contract as a free agent over the winter. So far the results have been less than ideal. He entered the game with an 8.10 ERA and a 1-2 record through three starts. He left it at 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA. Allowing three runs in five innings -- plus four batters faced in the sixth -- might seem like progress to some after a rough start. Haren has seen too much success in his career to buy that.

"I want more out of myself than five innings giving up three runs and [reliever Craig] Stammen bailing me out of that jam [in the sixth]," Haren said. "I've been around for 10 years. I'm used to throwing seven, eight innings every time. I've thrown 200 innings many times. Throwing five innings, you're not gonna do that."

The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Allen Craig smacked a two-out double to score Pete Kozma -- last fall's NLDS hero against Washington -- and Matt Carpenter. The Nats tied the game in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Ian Desmond and rookie Anthony Rendon off Cardinals starter Shelby Miller.

For Rendon, a top prospect playing in place of the injured Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring), it was both his first major league hit and first RBI. He had made his debut only the day before in New York.

But St. Louis retook the lead in the sixth inning. Haren hit Matt Holliday with a pitch and then gave up a single to Carlos Beltran. Molina followed with a single of his own to drive in Holliday. Following a walk, Stammen came on to escape the bases-loaded, none-out jam.

The Cardinals survived a couple of late rallies by Washington to hold on for the win. In the seventh, center fielder Jon Jay raced across the outfield to make a diving scoop catch in shallow right center on a bloop by pinch-hitter Chad Tracy. With runners at first and second, that saved at least the tying run from scoring. In the eighth, Trevor Rosenthal struck out Desmond looking with runners at second and third and two down.

"Jon Jay made an unbelievable play -- as we've seen before," Desmond said. "But it's just a matter of time before those start falling for us. Today was a huge step in the right direction."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner