Washington Nationals Need Dan Haren To Pitch Well Tonight

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For Washington Nationals  starting pitcher Dan Haren, tonight’s game against the New York Mets is the biggest game of his short career in Washington. The Nationals find themselves six games back of the Cincinnati Reds for the final NL Wild Card spot with just 19 games to play.

The Nationals have won four games in a row and the bats are starting to heat up, so Haren must keep things going if Washington has any hopes of catching the Reds and returning to the postseason. The Nationals will be watching television this afternoon.

The Reds will host a 12:30 p.m. ET contest against the Chicago Cubs. They will be sending their ace Jeff  Samardzija, (9-11, 4.29 ERA) to the hill to take on the Reds’ Mike Leake, (12-6, 3.46 ERA).

So when Haren takes the mound tonight, he will know if the Nationals can gain even more ground on Cincinnati before the night is over, or if they simply just need a win to keep pace with the Reds.

What has the Nationals fans holding their collective breath tonight is that Haren has the second-highest ERA in all of baseball. After a midseason turnaround where it seemed like he was going to be the $13 million pitcher the team needed to make the playoffs, He has struggled in back-to-back short outings and at this very late point in the season, they need the good Haren back tonight.

Meanwhile, the Mets will send Zack Wheeler (7-4, 3.38 ERA) to the mound to face the Nationals. He  had a season-high  five walks in his last outing on Saturday, Wheeler was able to limit the damage against theCleveland Indians, who wound up with five hits and three runs (two earned) off the rookie.

Wheeler had three strikeouts in his five innings, and left after 92 pitches. The Mets lost that game 9-4 to the Tribe and the Nationals are hoping for another less than consistent, short outing from the Mets rookie. Any faint hopes of the Nationals making it to the postseason ride on their pitching and tonight, that means Haren must produce.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven time Emmy Award winning, producer, director, and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc or join his circle at Google +  

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