Haren, arguably baseball's most consistent starter since 2005, went into Thursday's 3-0 win over the Mariners with a 1-5 record, a 4.37 ERA, a four-game losing streak and a recently snapped stretch of three straight starts coinciding with shutouts of the Angels. His shaken confidence was evident in his uncharacteristic walk total, which was at 11 over his previous five outings.
"I think if you asked any pitcher," Haren said, "when you lose a few games, or you're worried about giving up a run or two, you tend to nibble around in the strike zone and you fall behind in counts and it's just a snowball effect."
But heading into the series opener against the Mariners, Haren -- who had less walks (33) than starts (34) last season -- made a concerted effort to stop nibbling at corners and go right after hitters, like he normally does.
"Whether you're a hitter or a pitcher, at some point, you have to lock it in and say, 'All right, I'm sick of this,'" said Haren's catcher, Bobby Wilson, who noticed a much better cutter. "It's definitely a demeanor; it's definitely an attitude."
Said Haren: "I said before this last start I was going to really attack the zone and pitch more aggressively."
And Haren did just that, en route to a dominant complete game that saw him scatter four hits, strike out 14 -- giving him 1,500 punchouts for his career -- walk none and get into only one three-ball count all night.
Prior to that, Haren said, "It just seemed like nothing was working out for me."
Then everything did.
"Baseball's a very humbling game," said Haren, whose ERA is now at 3.76 through 10 starts. "When you're on top, it'll bring you right down. In my case, I was at the bottom, and then I threw one of the best games I've ever thrown. Now, I'm right back on top. I'm sure I'm going to have a game or two the rest of the year where things aren't going to go good. But like I've said, the biggest thing for me is making all my starts. And if I do that, I think my numbers at the end of the year will be where I want them."