Dan Haren turned in another clunker on Wednesday in the Dodgers' 6-1 loss to the Pirates in their series finale at PNC Park. The Dodgers dropped their second straight series and fell to 2-4 in the first two-thirds of their nine-game road trip.
Haren began the first inning by allowing two singles then a loud out by Andrew McCutchen, followed by two straight walks to force in a run. A sacrifice fly gave Pittsburgh a second run, then Josh Harrison doubled home two more to double the Pirates' lead to 4-0.
In his last 16 starts, Haren has allowed the opponent to score in the first inning 11 times, scoring 20 runs in all in the opening frame during that span.
The Dodgers have allowed first-inning runs in three of their losses on this road trip, allowing nine total runs in those three games.
Francisco Liriano was shaky in his own right in the first, walking Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez with one out. But the Dodgers weren't able to capitalize, allowing the left-hander to settle in. Liriano didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning.
Travis Snider added a solo home run in the second inning to put Pittsburgh up 5-0, the 21st home run allowed by Haren this season and 19th home run allowed in his last 14 starts.
If there was any positive to Haren's outing, it's that after the Snider home run he was able to retire 11 straight to get through five innings. It helped ease the burden somewhat on the bullpen one night after starter Josh Beckett was unable to get out of the fourth inning.
With off days looming Thursday and Monday, and baseball's non-waiver trade deadline coming next Thursday, there is a decent chance Dan Haren has made his final start as a Dodger, at least for a long while. The Dodgers absolutely must add a starting pitcher, with Beckett's questionable health and Haren's unquestionably bad performance.
There is no real justification for Haren getting the ball again anytime soon. He has a 4.49 ERA on the season, he has failed to last past 5⅓ innings in five of his last six starts. He has lost four straight games in July, with a 9.47 ERA for the month, with opposing batters hitting .329/.376/.635 in July.
This isn't really about Haren's option, which becomes a $10 million player option if he reaches 180 innings in 2014. Even if somehow Haren were to last in the starting rotation for the remainder of the regular season, he simply isn't pitching well enough or deep enough into games to get the final 57⅔ innings he needs over his remaining 10 or 11 starts, that is if he gets a chance to make them.
This is about what is best for the Dodgers in 2014, as they remain entrenched in a battle for the division and/or possibly a wild card spot. And whenever this spot in the rotation comes up next, what's best for the Dodgers is really anybody but Dan Haren.
Liriano lasted seven innings, allowing only a run on four hits, striking out four. He is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers this season, and 0-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 15 starts against everyone else.
The low-leverage bullpen trio of Jamey Wright, Paul Maholm and Chris Perez each pitched an inning for the Dodgers for a second consecutive night, providing another day of rest for the relievers higher on Don Mattingly's trust ladder.
Yasiel Puig played for the first time since Saturday, drawing a walk as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. He stayed in the game and played the final inning in center field, his first time this season at the position. Puig played 10 games, including six starts in center field in 2013, totaling 55⅓ innings.
The Dodgers head to San Francisco tonight, then spend their Thursday off day in San Francisco in advance of their three-game weekend series against the first-place Giants. Zack Greinke starts the opener on Friday night, facing Tim Lincecum for San Francisco.
Home run: Travis Snider (5)
WP - Francisco Liriano (2-7): 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
LP - Dan Haren (8-8): 5 IP, 4 hits, 5 runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts