Dan Haren recovered from a disastrous first inning, but the Washington Nationals’ seventh-inning comeback proved too little against the Kansas City Royals in what amounted to a 6-4 loss Sunday afternoon.
Just three pitches into Haren’s outing, Alex Gordon homered to right center to put the Royals up 1-0. From there, Emilio Bonifacio walked and came home on a single by Eric Hosmer. With Billy Butler batting, however, Nats catcher Wilson Ramos caught Hosmer in his attempt to steal second.
Butler went on to strike out looking at a 90 MPH fastball, but Haren was not yet ready to record a third out.
Instead, Mike Moustakas singled and Salvador Perez homered to left to give Kansas City a four-run lead into the second.
Through three innings, the Nats failed to come up with any answers against Royals’ righthander Ervin Santana. In the second, Adam LaRoche singled and, in the third, Anthony Rendon doubled before Denard Span singled, but all three innings resulted in nothing but zeroes for the visiting team looking to sweep.
In the fourth, the Nats finally broke the streak with a homer by Ian Desmond that erased but one of the Royals’ runs.
Haren wasn’t quite commanding against the Royals for the remainder of the outing, but he maintained control and held Kansas City batters to infield hits rather than live drives and screechers over the outfield wall.
It paid off. In the top of the seventh, the Nats’ bats pulled through, all with two outs.
Span homered to center to cut the Royals’ lead in half. Then, Ryan Zimmerman singled to provide Bryce Harper with an opportunity to tie the game.
He did exactly that on his 18th homer of the season before the Royals called upon Kelvin Herrera (W, 5-6) to end the inning.
Haren went on to pitch a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, but the Nats called upon Craig Stammen to pitch the eighth. And, that’s when things went south.
After recording the first two outs, Stammen gave up a walk to Hosmer. Then, Butler singled before Moustakas walked to load the bases.
Perez then chopped one to Desmond who fumbled the ball on a fielder’s choice that wound up plating Hosmer and loading the bases.
Before Stammen could secure a third out, David Lough singled in Butler. On the play, Moustakas scrambled for home but could not outrun Harper’s laser throw from right.
The Nats, however, could do no damage in the ninth off Greg Holland (SV, 35)
Denard Span led off with a single before Zimmerman and Harper each struck out swinging.
Jayson Werth, who is still fighting off an infection in his right foot, singled to keep the inning alive, but Desmond struck out swinging to close the book on the Nationals’ attempt to record their would-be longest winning streak of the season. Instead, the loss caps off their streak at five games and leaves Washington at .500 once again.
THE GOOD: Dan Haren had a terrible start to Sunday’s outing, but instead of falling back into hold habits and writing this one off good and early, he came back and shut down the Royals until his efforts fell to pieces with Craig Stammen on the mound in the eighth.
The Nationals can also breathe easier that Jayson Werth’s antibiotics seem to have worked overnight, at least enough to put him in the lineup Sunday. The Nats’ outfielder, who walked with a heavy limp just little over a day earlier, went 2-for-4 with a walk Sunday.
According to ESPN Stats Info, Ian Desmond’s homer was measured at 455 feet, marking the longest of his career and the longest by the Nats thus far this season.
THE BAD: Craig Stammen recorded the first two outs… and then quickly managed to toss out what the Nats’ offense battled to salvage with Haren on the mound.
THE STATS: 4 R, 14 H, 0 E, 1 BB, 11 K, 1-for-7 RISP, 10 LOB
NEXT GAME: Tuesday vs. the Miami Marlins, 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park – RHP Nathan Eovaldi (2-4, 3.82) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 2.58)