Haren shines as D-backs take series
Right-hander, bullpen combine for gem to take down Nationals
PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks are quickly losing all remnants of the team that lost 10 of 13 games, and are looking more like the team that got off to the best start in club history.Following a near-perfect outing by Brandon Webb, Dan Haren almost replicated the dominant performance on Sunday by beating the Nationals, 5-0, as the tandem recorded back-to-back shutouts for the D-backs for the first time in over two years. Haren tossed seven innings in the rubber match for the D-backs, followed by two more innings by Chad Qualls and Tony Pena to close the door on the Nationals. "When teams look at us, they look at Webb and Haren," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "On those two days, you always want to try and give the bullpen a little bit of a break, knowing that they're going to give you some innings and performances similar to what we've seen these last two nights." Melvin talked before the game about Haren's recent unfortunate luck of the draw, noting how he had been given very little run support in his previous two outings, both losses. Dating back even further, in Haren's last four starts, he received only three runs of offense. On Sunday, it took a mere three batters for the D-backs to match that total, when second baseman Orlando Hudson stroked a three-run homer in the first inning off Nationals pitcher Shawn Hill. The 385-foot drive to right-center field extended Hudson's hitting streak to eight games, and he has now reached base safely in 30 of his last 31 games. "You all saw at the beginning of the season how we could swing the bats and score runs," Hudson said. "Obviously, the last 10-12 games haven't been too good for us, but that's not going to happen for 162. We all know that." Adding even more power to the right side of the infield, first baseman Chad Tracy smacked a solo home run in the third inning to put the D-backs up, 5-0, which was more than enough for the day. Tracy, a temporary fill-in at first base while Conor Jackson recovers from a quadriceps strain, went 2-for-4 and has already hit two home runs in 20 at-bats since coming off the disabled list on Monday, as well as two multi-hit games. It's the kind of depth that the D-backs showed early in the season, with reserves filing in just as adequately as the starters. "The timing was good," Melvin said. "For him to come back with Conor going down, you can just plug him right in there, and you really don't lose anything offensively. ...We try to get quite a few left-handed bats in there, and he's a guy that can hit in the middle of the order. "He's had big years offensively and can play the position very well over there." In the visitor's dugout, the Nationals have slipped to the lowest batting average (.233) and the third-lowest run total in the National League, owing in some part to Webb and Haren's weekend performances. The two allowed no runs and only 10 hits combined in 16 innings. "[Haren] pitched great," Melvin said. "He had a little bit more run on his fastball than he normally does. He had a little trouble keeping it on the plate to left-handers. In about the third inning he made the adjustment." Haren acknowledged his good outing, but deflected his achievements to the rest of the team. "I'm happy with the way I threw the ball," Haren said. "I'm more happy with the way the team has played the last couple days. "Hopefully, we've taken the next step. I just tried to continue with the momentum we had from yesterday. We came out and scored a few runs early and I was able to pretty much just fill in and throw strikes."
Mike Ritter is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.