LAKELAND, Fla. – Rick Porcello threw five shutout innings allowing three hits while striking out four, out-pitching Dan Haren as the Tigers beat the Nationals 2-1 at Joker Marchant Stadium.
After a 1-2-3 top of the first inning, Haren gave up two runs on four hits in the second. With runners at first and second with one out, Alex Avila singled home Prince Fielder to give the Tigers the lead. That was followed by an RBI double to right by Don Kelly scoring Jhonny Peralta.
Meanwhile, Porcello set down the side in order twice and never had any more than one base runner in any inning.
Haren has been working the entire spring on throwing inside to the hitters more, something he knows he has to do since he is not throwing between 87 to 91 mph.
“It was a lot better,” Haren said of working in inside part of the plate. “I gave up a hit to Peralta today but it’s something I have to work on and focus on. I got a couple of outs on Torri [Hunter] with it. I have just been stubborn in the past with it and just stay away to righties. Now is the time to work on that because the results really don’t matter.”
Being able to throw inside and work both sides of the plate will be an advantage to him because it will allow him to keep the hitters off balance. He will know how successful his being with the way the hitters react to his pitches.
“For the most part, I feel like it’s opening up the outside part of the plate for me a little bit,” he said. “Just to be able move guys feet, it always helps to move guy’s feet in that an at bat, a lot of times you are going to have success. It’s just about making hitters uncomfortable, really.”
Manager Davey Johnson says Haren was great today.
“I thought he threw the ball really good,” said Johnson. “I know he was really happy because he didn’t put some guys away and he didn’t locate when got two strikes on them, he felt he made a couple of bad pitches to them but I thought he pitched great and looked great.”
Johnson feels like Haren has come into camp and fit right in with the rest of his starters and likes what he has seen out of the veteran right-hander.
“Just like Edwin Jackson and the experience he brought to a young rotation last year and the innings he was able to pitch to take the load off the bullpen and I see the same thing from Haren,” he said.
“He knows what he needs to do; he knows what he needs to work on in the spring. He’s looked good to me since day one, great command, great stuff and great make-up. I had heard about his back problems but he’s been great. He’s done everything everyone else has done and then some.”
Matt Skole started the game at third base and moved over to first later in the game. Skole’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning plated Carlos Rivero for the lone run of the game for Washington.
Skole is hitting .250 on the spring with one homer and four RBI. He made the defensive play of the game on a screaming line drive off the bat of Avisail Garcia. Skole dove to his right and snared the line drive.
Asked if it was instinct or luck since he had to react in a split second, Skole tried to be humble, to a point.
“I’d say it’s a little of both,” he said. “I’d like to say instinct but I was like,