Dan Haren is 33 now, his fastball several ticks slower than it was in the days he was an All-Star.
At this stage of his career, what happened Saturday was bound to happen.
Haren absorbed his worst beating of the season, when he was charged with eight runs over 5 1/3 innings in an 8-7 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Not even a five-run seventh inning could save the Dodgers, who remain in first place in the National League West.
"We live with who he is," said Manager Don Mattingly. "He's not going to overpower anybody. He's going to have to get the ball to certain parts of the strike zone. He's going to give up some hits, he's going to give up some runs, but he's going to keep hanging in there and keep giving you the innings and keep you in the ballgame for the most part."
Haren is 8-5 with a 4.07 earned-run average and the Dodgers have won four of the last six games he has started.
That's more than enough for a No. 5 starter.
But the Dodgers might one day need Haren to be something more than that, which makes his recent form somewhat disconcerting.
Mattingly has acknowledged that the four days between Josh Beckett's starts is always a period of uncertainty for the Dodgers, who are never certain Beckett will take the mound until he actually does.
Although Haren said he feels strong — "great" was the word he used to describe how he felt entering the game Saturday — there are indications he could be wearing down.
In his first 12 starts for the Dodgers, Haren pitched six or more innings 11 times. Over his last six starts, he has reached that threshold only twice.
For his part, Haren said he feels he is throwing the ball well. He pointed to his strikeout total Saturday, a season-high eight. He also pointed to his previous start, which was a gem: seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
"My stuff has been coming around the last few weeks," he said. "The results really haven't been there, except for last week. Baseball's a humbling game. Five days ago, I couldn't have felt any better. Today, I just wore it, basically, out there."
Mattingly said Haren's inconsistency is less about Haren and more about the team he's facing.
"That's matchups, usually," Mattingly said. "Sometimes, he's going to match up good, sometimes, he's not going to match up as good."
The Dodgers scored twice in the first inning, but Haren allowed the Rockies to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
Haren went on to give up two home runs — a two-run shot by Drew Stubbs in the third inning and a solo blast by Corey Dickerson in the fifth.
A run-scoring triple by Charlie Culberson in the sixth inning ended his day.
"It's tough to deal with because I was feeling great coming into this start," Haren said. "I knew it was a tough place to pitch and I knew that I've had some struggles here, but I felt good in the bullpen. I just didn't give us a chance. If I just throw the game that I've been throwing for us basically all year, we win. I just couldn't do it."
Haren's fastball once touched the upper 90s. It's now routinely clocked in the mid-80s.
As such, Haren is realistic about the pitcher he has become and where he fits in a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and a resurgent Beckett.
"The starting pitchers here are held to a higher standard," Haren said. "At this point in my career, I'm not the eight-innings, no-runs guy any more, but for the most part, I can keep us in the game and give us a really good chance to win, with a few good games, like the last one I had, mixed in there. It's tough to keep up with these guys. It's pretty unbelievable what they've done. I've tried to hold up my end of the bargain and I think I have for the most part, except a few games."
Twitter: @dylanohernandezCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times