Offense rolls as Haren continues struggles

The only thing that saved Dan Haren from a loss Thursday night in Toronto was the Angels’ offense.

If not for Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols and everyone else who contributed in a 9-7 win over the Blue Jays, Haren would be sitting on his eighth loss of the season.

He won only because the Angels kept pounding out hits to put him in front. Every time he gave up a lead, his offense came back.

The Angels are 10 games over .500 for the first time this season and they’re 14-1 on the road since May 22. There are enough elements to their hot streak to overcome some unreliable pitching, but Haren’s slump remains confusing.

In his past four starts, he’s given up 34 hits and 20 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings, a 7.94 ERA. He has also surrendered eight home runs after allowing just seven homers in his first 12 starts. And yet he’s won three of the games.

The same questions that arose after Haren’s last start are sure to follow him after this one. And they’re worth asking again.

Is it his back?

Haren admittedly struggled earlier this season because of a sore back, but he insists it’s no longer a problem. Still, anyone who knows him and his reputation for making all his starts would expect him to say that. He prides himself on his dependability.

Manager Mike Scioscia says Haren is feeling better now than he has in the past, but you’ve got to wonder if the back still isn’t right. Would a stay on the disabled list help? Haren likely would protest it, but it’s possible a little rest and rehab might get him back in working order.

Is it his stuff?

Scioscia says Haren’s problems include elevating his pitches, not getting his fastball in the zone and an inconsistent splitter. All those have contributed to falling behind in the count, and that’s a source of trouble for any pitcher.

Thursday, he gave up a home run to former Angel Jeff Mathis leading off the third, then grooved a pitch in the middle of the plate that Jose Bautista crushed for a three-run homer in the fifth, giving the Jays a 6-5 lead.

Haren pitched one more inning after a two-run shot by Trout in the sixth gave him back the lead and helped him to his sixth victory of the season.

In their three games so far on this trip, the Angels have scored 29 runs and combined for 47 hits, including eight homers. They’ve had double digit hits in seven of eight games.

Those kinds of numbers are good enough to carry most pitchers, and that’s why Haren’s unsatisfying effort could be largely overlooked. But he bears watching as the season progresses.