The former three-time All-Star, though, wasn't sharp in his first start.
Haren looks to bounce back from a forgettable season debut as the Nationals, enjoying their best home start in more than three decades, go for a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night.
Signed to a one-year deal this offseason after 2 1/2 years with the Angels, Haren (0-1, 13.50 ERA) didn't make a very good first impression in Friday's 15-0 loss at Cincinnati. The veteran right-hander, who gave up a career worst-tying four homers, was tagged for six runs and nine hits over four innings.
"I've had my share of bad games along with good games," he said. "They're tough to deal with, but the sooner you forget about it, the better. It's such a long season. I've probably got 30-plus starts left. This start isn't going to define how the year goes."
Manager Davey Johnson didn't appear too concerned, either.
"It's just one game," Johnson told MLB's official website. "He is a quality pitcher. He knows how to pitch. When you think of spring training, you are getting your arm in shape. He is working on a few things. Just move on."
Haren could get a boost from the Nationals' bats, which have started to heat up. After hitting four homers in Tuesday's 8-7 win, Washington (6-2) went 4 for 10 with runners in scoring position during a 5-2 victory Wednesday.
Bryce Harper went 2 for 4 with his team-leading fourth home run as the Nationals improved to 5-0 at home for the first time since opening a franchise-best 9-0 in 1981, when the club was based in Montreal.
"There were a lot of guys that had really good (at-bats) and really came up big for us," said Harper, who has recorded two hits in six of eight games.
Chicago (4-4), which has dropped four of six, is looking to avoid opening 0-3 on the road for the first time since 2003.
The White Sox will try to bounce back behind Dylan Axelrod (0-0, 0.00), who allowed one unearned run and three hits over 5 2-3 innings in Saturday's 4-3 win over Seattle.
"You couldn't tell what he's thinking by what's going on out there," manager Robin Ventura said. "It doesn't matter the situation. He's under control. He's very confident. Very composed for a young pitcher, but also he knows what he's doing. He's confident."
Axelrod, who has never faced Washington, went 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA over four road starts last season.
Haren, meanwhile, has gone 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three outings against the White Sox over the last two years.
Alex Rios is 4 for 9 against him in that span and is off to a hot start, posting a .419 average while hitting safely in all eight games. Rios went 2 for 4 with an RBI on Wednesday but saw his four-game homer streak come to an end.
Keppinger, batting just .133, started at second base Wednesday in place of Gordon Beckham , who is expected to miss about six weeks because of a broken bone in his left wrist.
|Alejandro De Aza||6||.167||1||0||0||0||1||.167||.334||.167|
|Chicago White Sox|
|April 09, 2013||Gordon Beckham||Day-to-Day||Left game - nerve irritation, left wrist|
|March 22, 2013||Leyson Septimo||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|March 22, 2013||John Danks||15-Day DL||Recovery from left shoulder surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Christian Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm tendon|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Here's the dilemma Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura faced Thursday night in the fourth inning of a close game against the Washington Nationals :
Pitch to No. 3 hitter Bryce Harper with a runner on base or walk Harper and pitch instead to cleanup man Ryan Zimmerman with two aboard.
Ventura chose to have right-hander Dylan Axelrod intentionally walk the lefty-swinging Harper. That brought up the right-handed Zimmerman, who delivered a two-run double, breaking the game open and helping the Nationals beat the White Sox 7-4 for a three-game sweep.
"You're rolling the dice either way," Ventura said. "You just take your chance."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson raised an eyebrow and grinned when asked what he thought about that sequence.
"I'm glad," Johnson said, "I don't have to make those decisions."
Zimmerman's modest take?
"I wouldn't pitch a righty against Bryce right now, either," he said.
Ventura's basic, two-word explanation: "Harper's hot."
That's certainly true, and Harper himself wasn't surprised about the walk there, saying, "First base open. Hitting righties pretty good."
Actually, it doesn't seem to matter who's on the mound at the moment.
The reigning NL Rookie of the Year is hitting .417 with four homers, eight RBIs and a .778 slugging percentage. His run-scoring single in the eighth gave the 20-year-old Harper at least two hits in seven of Washington's nine games so far.
"Obviously, they're showing a lot of respect for Bryce, 10 days into the season," Nationals starter Dan Haren (1-0) said after getting the win despite allowing 10 hits in five innings. "I mean, he's special. Our lineup's really good, though. There's no soft spots."
With the score tied at 3 in the fourth, Haren helped himself by doubling off Axelrod (0-1) and eventually scoring on a wild pitch with two outs. Chicago then put Harper on base on purpose, but the move didn't work: Cleanup hitter Zimmerman lined a double to right on Axelrod's 103rd - and final - pitch of the evening.
"I just didn't want to give in. We got to 3-2 and I went with the changeup. I hadn't thrown a changeup to a right-hander all game," Axelrod said, "and it seemed like a good idea at the time."
That put Washington ahead 6-3, and relievers Ryan Mattheus , Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano made it hold up. Soriano pitched the ninth for his fifth save in six chances, and third in three days.
"Well, I was tempted to go another route," Johnson acknowledged afterward about using Soriano again, "but he hadn't cried `Uncle' for me yet."
Washington, 6-0 at home and 7-2 overall, opens a three-game set Friday against visiting NL East rival Atlanta. The Braves are on a six-game winning streak and own a major league-best 8-1 record. It's their best start since opening 13-1 in 1994.
Swirling wind carried napkins and other debris from the stands onto the grass, pushed batted balls away from the fences, and turned some otherwise routine plays into adventures for fielders. Following a couple of days in the 80s, the temperature dipped into the 50s.
And after hitting 11 homers in their previous four games, the Nationals turned to some small ball.
In the first inning, Jayson Werth singled to cap a 10-pitch at-bat, stole second and moved to third when catcher Tyler Flowers ' errant throw went into the outfield. Adam LaRoche made it 1-0 with a single on Axelrod's 33rd pitch. He would need 40 just to get the first three outs.
In the third, Denard Span singled, stole second, took third on Werth's flyout and came home on Harper's single up the middle. After consecutive walks, Ian Desmond 's sacrifice fly made it 3-1.
Chicago pulled even in the fourth. With a man on, Axelrod popped up a bunt that first baseman LaRoche couldn't quite reach, and the ball bounced by for an infield single. Alejandro De Aza and Jeff Keppinger hit RBI singles - ending Chicago's 0-for-10 stretch with runners in scoring position over two games.
Haren threw 101 pitches and allowed three runs. Shaky, but far more effective than his Nationals debut after signing a $13 million, one-year contract as a free agent. In that game, he allowed four homers in four innings of a 15-0 loss at Cincinnati, the Nationals' biggest defeat since they brought baseball back to Washington in 2005.
"I've kind of shown flashes of how I can be," Haren said, "but haven't really put it all together yet."
NOTES: Chicago 2B Gordon Beckham needs surgery for a broken bone in his left wrist and is expected to miss six weeks. ... White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is still hospitalized with an intestinal illness and will skip the rest of the club's 10-game road trip.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich