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Long ball again hurts Nats starter Dan Haren

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Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

The answers just aren’t there right now for Nationals pitcher Dan Haren. Always prone to allow home runs even in his best days, he gave up three more on Wednesday night in an ugly 10-1 loss to the New York Mets.

Haren has now allowed 15 homers on the season. That’s through just 12 starts and 67 2/3 innings. He’s twice allowed 31 in his career. It’s unlikely he’ll be given the chance to get that far if he keeps allowing them at this rate. Marlon Byrd hit two on Wednesday and David Wright smashed another. Washington, which needed a good start to build momentum from a series-opening win the day before, instead lost another game in the NL East standings to the first-place Atlanta Braves.

“It’s just very disappointing, obviously. I feel bad for the guys,” Haren said. “I’m letting them down. I can’t be this inconsistent. I’m the same guy that five days ago went through one of the toughest lineups in baseball and kept us there. To lay another egg tonight is just…I’ve got to be better.”

Haren was speaking about the two runs he allowed in 7 2/3 innings against the homer-happy Orioles at Camden Yards last week. But that was a distant memory when manager Davey Johnson pinch hit for him in the fourth inning with the Nats already down 5-1. Roger Bernadina doubled and Washington left runners stranded at second and third with one out. It was that kind of night.

“It seems like he can’t catch a break,” said Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki.

But it must be more than that. Haren can’t tell right now how he’ll pitch from start to start and when he isn’t on things spiral out of control quickly. There isn’t much middle ground. Johnson thought Haren’s pitches looked “flat” from the dugout, but otherwise offered little explanation for the veteran’s struggles.

“I’ve been pitching in the big leagues since 2003,” said Haren, 32. “I don’t remember many times as tough as this one where it was just so up and down where I feel good one day and so bad the next. Body wise, I have no excuses. I’m healthy. If it was something, that’d be an easy way out, to say ‘Oh, I’m hurt.’ But I’m not hurt. I’m just not getting the job done.”

Haren has always pitched with a chronic hip condition and last year landed on the 15-day disabled list with a bad back. But the hip had never really been an issue before and he’s long been a durable workhorse and one of the better pitchers in the majors. But the signs that he was fading last season have emerged again in 2013. Haren is on a one-year contract worth $13 million after spending the last two-and-a-half years with the Los Angeles Angels.

“It’s not for lack of trying. I’m going out there, I’m doing my best,” Haren said. “I feel like I’m letting down the team, fans, front office, everybody. No one feels worse about it than me, but I’ve got to take the ball in five days and I’ve got to believe because the team needs me. And I know I’m good. I’ve been good at times this year. Just no consistency whatsoever.”

Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14

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