More on Game 14: Desmond defends Zim, Haren searching

Adam Berry here in Miami, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

Before we get to tonight’s series finale against the Marlins, let’s take another look back at the Nationals’ 8-2 loss last night. You can read a bit about the frustration Dan Haren and Ryan Zimmerman are feeling, and how they’re both searching for answers, in that game story.
Both veterans were extremely honest and reflective about what they’re going through right now — Haren’s inability to keep runners from getting on base and crossing home plate, and Zimmerman’s throwing errors — and were willing to take the blame on themselves for what happened Tuesday night. Their quotes in the game story show you that.
-After they both did their best to explain what’s going wrong, Ian Desmond offered up a strong defense of Zimmerman, who obviously is dealing with some criticism about his defense. Zimmerman went to his teammates, including Desmond, to ask what they’re seeing from him. Here’s some of what Desmond had to say in support of Zimmerman:
“I think if this is going to be the fall of a superstar, you’ve got it completely wrong. You don’t get to the level he’s at without overcoming some things along the way. You can talk to him about growing up. He was always a little guy, never hit homers in high school or college, and all of a sudden he figured it out. And now he’s a 30-homer, 100-RBI-a-year guy. It’s just when you run into those trials, how do you deal with it?
“He’s obviously talking to you [reporters]. And I think him coming to us, he knows something’s going on. But it’s not going to derail his stardom. He’s an unbelievable talent, and he’s got to remember that. He’s got a Gold Glove in his house. He knows how to do it. He needs to get out of his own head, just like we all do. I made 40 errors a year. It’s part of the game. You have to go through that stuff. And there’s nobody I think would be able to bounce back from it more than he would.
“In a sense, it’s a confidence thing. He’s never come to me before about how to hit a homer, or how to drive in a runner from second, or how to make a diving play. So I would imagine his confidence is a little down if he’s coming to me. I have some things that I see, but I think he’s to the point now where it’s right there. He’s gotten 100 times better. Everything is already moving in the right direction. He makes one and then he makes five good throws. He’s moving in the right direction.”
-Desmond also defended Haren, saying the rest of the team can feed off his ability to grind through a game. But Haren was really critical of himself, admitting that something has to change and “it’s not this hard” to get batters out. He pointed out that he used to be capable of throwing 100-pitch complete games, not nearly 100 pitches to battle through five innings. 
(For what it’s worth: Haren has thrown 16 complete games in his career. Two of them — one in 2005, the other in ’06 — were nine-inning complete games thrown on 98 and 100 pitches, respectively. So he’s not exaggerating, but it’s been a while.)
“I’m searching. My stuff is there. I don’t know velocity-wise, whatever, but I feel like the ball’s coming out all right,” Haren said. “I’ve learned to pitch with a little less velocity. In 2011 I had a great year (16-10, 3.17 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, 5.82 K/BB), and I wasn’t throwing any harder than I’m throwing now in the American League. Probably need to go back and look at that stuff, pitch more like that, whatever I was doing then. But yeah, I’m searching right now. I’m searching for answers. I’m trying in between starts and I’ve got to get better. I do. I feel worse about it than anybody.”
-Manager Davey Johnson said he was sure Haren would come around. He said he’s been thinking that Zimmerman wouldn’t feel completely comfortable until June. And Zimmerman might as well have been speaking for himself and Haren when he was asked if his throwing’s going to get better with time.
“Well,” Zimmerman said, “it can’t get any worse.”

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