Craig Heist, wtop.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Tim Hudson threw six scoreless innings as the Braves beat the Nationals 4-3 at Champion Stadium.
Dan Haren allowed four runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 with a walk and five strikeouts. He saw his record fall to 0-4 on the spring with an ERA of 6.05 but after allowing three runs on four hits in the second, the right-hander settled in and retired ten straight.
"I just have to do a better job of putting away hitters," Haren said. "I got too many three ball counts, the walk, and I didn't throw enough strikes in general so I just have to concentrate on getting ahead in the count.
He was able to do that in the third, fourth and fifth innings as he settled in and had a better feel for his pitches before giving up a lead-off homer to Justin Upton in the sixth.
"I was just working ahead in the count and pitching to contact a little bit more," he said. "I gave up eight hits but I feel besides the ball that Upton hit that hasn't landed yet, it wasn't like I was getting smoked all over the yard. I think there is always room for improvement but this was a step in the right direction."
Haren, who was coming off a terrible outing in Jupiter last time against the Cardinals, threw 90 pitches, 59 for strikes and despite giving up the four runs, felt much better about his start against the Braves.
"I was getting bad swings from hitters and that tells me my stuff was better. Last time I needed an L-screen out there, it was scary. This time I was getting much better swings and you can tell with the reaction of the hitters because there were more broken bats and stuff like that and that's my game right there."
"He got a little better feel and started making better pitches," said Nats manager Davey Johnson. "He used his off-speed stuff a little bit more and I thought he threw a pretty nice ballgame."
It was Haren's fifth start of the spring and with Spring Training being longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic, Haren echoed what many of the players already feel, it's time to go home and get the season started.
"It's getting a little monotonous," he said. "It's spring and we have been here a little while so it's hard to get the adrenalin going. At the beginning of this game, it felt more normal because it was a night game and this is a nice place to play so it got my adrenalin going in the beginning."
Ramos the whole way
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos caught an entire game for the first time since he injured his knee last season in May which required ACL surgery. He has more than proven to skipper Davey Johnson that he is healthy and ready to go this season.
"I am very excited about this step in my career," Ramos said. "I am very excited I was able to catch eight innings. After I had surgery, if I was to tell anyone that, no one would believe it but I feel better now than before I got hurt." Ramos is hitting .364 so far this spring and he feels he is getting better as each day goes by.
"I feel stronger," he said. "I feel more reliable behind the plate, blocking balls pretty good so, I'm very, very excited for this moment."
Tigers on the prowl
The Nationals host the Detroit Tigers at Space Coast Stadium on Friday afternoon with Stephen Strasburg scheduled to pitch against Drew Smyly.
It definitely felt like a long time. It was good to go out there and play for my country but yea, it felt like I was gone for a month
There was a lot of intensity. The fans were into it. It was great. We went to Taiwan and that was a different atmosphere that Tokyo and the fans are great and I had a great time over there.
To go right into intense games and stuff like that, you definitely feel it and yea, its something different but its good experience to have
BEST PART ... Beating Cuba and getting to the semi-finals. Everyone was excited because a lot of guys got hurt, I got hurt but we fought all the way to the end so that was great.
I'm good now, I'm all ready. BRUISE ... It was a bruise, it hit me right on the wrist but I took a couple of days off and I'm alright now. I'm fairly close, all I need is a couple of days.
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