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Dan Haren allowed three runs over five-plus innings.
Let's run through three of them...
HAREN SHOWS SIGNS OF PROGRESS
It was by no means a quality start, either by the official definition or based purely on observation, but Dan Haren did make some big strides in his fourth outing as a National.
After getting beat around by the Reds, White Sox and Marlins, Haren was mostly effective against a tough St. Louis lineup. He gave up a two-run double to Allen Craig in the third when Denard Span couldn't quite haul the ball in against the wall. But otherwise, the right-hander was unscathed through his first five innings of work.
"I guess a little bit better," he said. "I mean, I gotta get obviously deeper in the game. I feel good. My stuff is good. ... I gave us a chance until the fifth. Then I got into a mess."
Indeed, he did. Given a chance to take the mound for the sixth inning for the first time this season, Haren immediately put himself in a jam, plunking Matt Holliday with a pitch. Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina followed with singles, and Haren compounded matters by walking David Freese.
The walks (he had three in this game) and the hit batter were most surprising and frustrating for Haren, who has made a career out of keeping the ball in the strike zone.
"The walks really frustrate me," he said. "I've kind of been nibbling a little bit. I think I was getting hit early in the season just being a little too aggressive, too many good pitches to hit. The walks, it really irks me. Against a lineup like that, if you walk guys and turn the lineup over, it's going to be tough."
The end result wasn't up to par, but for Haren, this was at least a step in the right direction.
RENDON NOTCHES FIRST HIT, RBI
Anthony Rendon is too good of a natural hitter to let his career-opening 0-fer drag on too long. But when it finally happened in the fourth inning, you could almost see the weight being lifted off the 22-year-old's shoulders.
Hitless in his first five big-league at-bats, three of them strikeouts, Rendon came through in a big spot last night. He battled Shelby Miller to a full count and then roped a run-scoring double to right-center, recording not only his first career hit but also his first career RBI.
"It's the one thing you're going to treasure the rest of your life," he said. "You don't get another one."
Rendon wound up 1-for-4 with another strikeout by night's end, but he did show off his defensive skills at third base, starting a nice 5-4-3 double play in the top of the seventh.
Perhaps now he can relax and go do what he's done his whole life: Hit a baseball with authority. He just needs to understand what the future holds for him after Ryan Zimmerman returns from a hamstring strain.
"I don't care if he hits .900," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's not going to beat out Ryan Zimmerman."
STOREN EXORCISES A DEMON
There was far less at stake when Drew Storen took the mound for the ninth inning last night than there was the last time he faced the Cardinals in this ballpark. But that didn't mean Storen couldn't take something positive out of his 1-2-3 inning of relief.
Available to close with Rafael Soriano tending to his wife and newborn son in New York, Storen was instead used with the Nationals trailing by a run in the ninth. He did get to face two St. Louis hitters who ruined Game 5 of the NLDS last October: Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso. And he retired both hitters with ease, striking out Kozma looking at a slider and then getting Descalso to pop out to third.
Storen finished off the inning by getting Matt Carpenter to ground out. Again, the stakes were not especially high. But for Storen, there had to be at least some sense of satisfaction following this strong appearance.