LOS ANGELES — Dan Haren has felt this way before, it’s familiar.
His cutter isn’t breaking in on left-handed batters right now. Instead it’s hanging over the plate. His curveball wasn’t sharp and he can’t quite seem to get the velocity up on his fastball.
Some of Haren’s best pitches have failed him in recent starts and he’s not entirely sure why.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ right-hander was chased from Friday night’s game against the San Diego Padres game after just four innings, making it his shortest outing of the season. He took the loss, his second-straight, and was charged with four earned runs in the Dodgers’ 6-3 loss.
"It wasn’t horrible, he only gave up four runs," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "But he probably could have done a lot better."
Last season, the worst of Haren’s career, his ERA ballooned to 5.61 before the All-Star break. He used the break as time to do some self analysis and solve the problem. He was able to do so, as his numbers greatly improved in the second half (6-4, 3.52 ERA).
But through the first half off 2014, the results have been mixed for the Dodgers’ heralded offseason sign. The local product won his first four decisions, but he won only once in May and it took him nearly another month to win again. He’s been inconsistent ever since.
"I’m searching right now," Haren said. "I went through a similar thing last year and the All-Star break came and I was able to kind of turn the page and string together some good ones. I’m going to step back for a day or two, it’s been an up and down first half."
I’m just not getting it done for us right now
-- Dan Haren
Haren labored right from the start. Alexi Amarista belted a two-run home run in the second to put San Diego up 2-1 and Haren held the Padres at bay until the fifth inning. He began the fifth but did not record an out.
Unable to get the first two batters out, Chase Headley sent a deep fly to right and Scott Van Slyke had a read on it, but as he made the jump the ball bounced off his glove, hitting the wall and Seth Smith advanced easily. Carlos Quentin then lined one to center field and Van Slyke dove but once again couldn’t make a difficult play.
"That was a tough play, the ball was crushed," Mattingly said. "I thought it would have been an incredible play."
"That’s just kind of the way things are going for me right now," Haren said. "Just kind of a snowball effect for me."
But the Dodgers were not without opportunities to bail Haren out of trouble. A base-running gaffe by Yasiel Puig ended what could have been a big seventh-inning rally, as Puig attempted to advance to third on a sacrifice fly and froze halfway there. Dee Gordon crossed the plate but the inning ended.
Matt Kemp had an opportunity in the fifth with runners on but struck out and proceeded to snap his bat over his knee with such force nearly the entire stadium let out an audible gasp. The Dodgers stranded nine men.
"We did leave some extra chances just not doing some small things that we talk about doing all of the time," Mattingly said.
Haren will have that much-needed all star break and that self-reflection time. But he’s become acutely aware that his margin for error is thin and that solutions don’t always materialize over a week in July.
"I’m not getting away with much," Haren said. "The results are what we’re judged on and regardless of how I felt, the results were terrible. I’m just not getting it done for us right now."