Dan Haren delivers gem to shut down Braves

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Dan Haren hasn’t had the smoothest start to the season, but he was in vintage form tonight against the division rival Braves, tossing eight innings of one-run ball as part of a 3-1 victory. The victory gave Washington a split of the four-game series and pushed the club back over .500 at 15-14.

Haren limited the Braves to just four hits on the night, with the lone run scoring on a solo homer by Dan Uggla in the bottom of the seventh inning. The veteran right-hander was very efficient, throwing 62 out of 91 pitches for strikes while issuing just one walk and notching four strikeouts. Rafael Soriano worked around a two-out single in the ninth for his ninth save.

Denard Span led the charge for the offense, going 3-for-4 with a walk. After he doubled and came around to score on a single by Steve Lombardozzi in the first inning, he delivered a two-run double one inning later. Kris Medlen, Cody Gearrin and Jordan Walden shut down the Nats’ offense the rest of the way, but that was all the support Haren needed.

This was the first time this season that Haren pitched past the sixth inning. It was also the first time that he had thrown at least eight innings in a start since May 24 of last year, a span of 25 outings. There’s reason for optimism with his last two starts, though, as he has allowed just three runs in 14 innings to improve his ERA to 5.01. Not bad considering that he was touched up for 19 runs (15 earned) in 18 1/3 innings over his first four starts. If Haren can get going again, this rotation has the potential to be very, very dangerous.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”