Haren surprisingly human in L.A. rotation

DENVER -- Dan Haren is no slouch, as Rockies outfielder Drew Stubbs pointed out, but he’s nothing like what Colorado had seen the past two days in the Mile High City.

Los Angeles Dodgers super-starters Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke almost made us forget Coors Field is a hitter’s sanctuary, a pitcher’s version of a slasher movie. They were that good here Thursday and Friday.

“We just couldn’t hit off them," Stubbs said. "Few teams can as of late."

Over the first two contests in this four-game series between the surging Dodgers and slumping Rockies, Greinke and Kershaw did to the Rockies what they’ve done to most of the league: blew right past them.

They were dominant for eight innings apiece and nearly untouchable throughout.

On Saturday afternoon, however, it was suddenly quite different with Haren on the mound. He was nothing more than human in the Dodgers’ 8-7 loss to the Rockies.

“I think the starting pitchers here are held to a higher standard,” said Haren, who gave up eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. “At this point in my career, I’m not the eight-inning-no-runs guy anymore. But for the most part, I can keep us in the game and give us a chance to win.”

It didn’t seem like he did, given that he left his team in an 8-2 hole after the sixth inning.

But Haren did so against the worst relief pitching staff in the league, and the Dodgers were able to make it close with a big seventh inning.

In the end, it was just a little too deep of a hole, and Haren knew his performance was to blame.

“Baseball is a humbling game,” said Haren, who told reporters pregame that his confidence couldn’t have been higher following his gem against the Cleveland Indians earlier in the week. “Five days ago, I couldn’t have felt any better, and today I just wore it, basically, out there.”

Haren has to be more consistent. After a string of mostly strong outings in the beginning of the year, Haren has gotten to the sixth inning just once in his past four starts.

“I’ve got to be better,” he said.

Better, but not unrealistic.

Nobody around the organization, especially Haren, honestly believes he can pitch like Greinke on a consistent basis. And certainly nobody on the planet expects him to toss like Kershaw.

But Mattingly and the Dodgers genuinely believe they can continue to build a lead in the NL West as long as Haren keeps the Dodgers from completely drowning in his starts. "Just give them a chance" is the motto.

"I think Danny kind of always gives up a few runs, but he always seems to keep us in games," Mattingly said, perhaps assuring himself of Haren’s future.

Despite Haren’s awful performance Saturday, there were two positive takeaways:

--He helped extend the team’s streak of walking two batters or fewer to 39 games. (Haren struck out eight and walked none, which improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 5.09.)

--Haren’s next start is against the worst offensive team in baseball, the San Diego Padres.

So, yes, Haren can succeed from here. Maybe not like a couple of his rotation buddies, but enough to get the Dodgers where they want to go.