"He battled back and did what Dan Haren does," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "He competed and kept us in the game. He kept fighting and clawing to put up zeros. Even when he had runners on base, he reached down a little deeper and found ways to get outs without hurting us."
Haren (6-5) was charged with two runs on four hits in seven innings for the loss. He struck out eight and walked one batter in the 116-pitch outing. The right-hander still leads the National League in ERA and is among the leaders in innings pitched, batting average against and strikeouts.
"I know it's a broken record, but I go out to give the team the best chance to win. I go out with a plan, and I work hard in between starts, and I go out and execute that plan," Haren said. "Wins and losses, I put that aside. I'm very proud of the way I have pitched my first 15 starts, and if I can have another 20 or 18 starts like that, I'd be very happy at the end of the year."
The loss drops Haren's record against the Rangers to 3-5 but lowered his ERA against the club to 4.29 for his career. Haren knows the Rangers well. He faced Texas nine times during his time in Oakland and said he knew what to expect from his former American League West rival -- a challenge.
"They have a few guys that strike out a lot, and quite a few guys that don't strike out a lot, and those guys are the ones that foul off a lot of pitches and put the ball in play," Haren said. "There are a lot of tough outs in that lineup. It's a lineup that I'm glad I only have to see once a year."
Despite a slow start, Haren's luck almost changed for the better in the middle innings.
Trailing by two, D-backs catcher Miguel Montero led off the fifth inning with a single off Rangers starter Vicente Padilla (6-3) and advanced to second base when Haren successfully dropped a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line on an 0-2 count.
Second baseman Felipe Lopez followed and lined a 93-mph fastball from Padilla up the middle to score Montero and cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1.
The D-backs threatened to score again in the sixth when center fielder Gerardo Parra hit a one-out triple to right field, but first baseman Tony Clark struck out on four pitches and left fielder Eric Byrnes grounded out to end the inning.
"We could just never get the big hit at the right time," Hinch said. "We did get runners on base and we were in a position to score runs and we just didn't hit them in. Give credit to [Padilla] for competing at that time and getting a lot of off-barrel contact at the right time."
In the second inning, Haren hit Rangers center fielder Marlon Byrd with a fastball to lead off the frame and walked the next hitter, first baseman Hank Blalock. One out later, Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden followed with a double to left field to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
In the third, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler led off the inning with a single to center field and stole second base. He scored on a single up the middle by left fielder David Murphy to push the Rangers ahead, 2-0.
As expected, the Rangers made Haren work. He threw 95 pitches after five innings but helped himself in the sixth, retiring the side in order on only 10 pitches.
"Strikes weren't the problem, because I had one walk and even there it was a close pitch," Haren said. "It wasn't necessarily my command because they were fighting off everything and taking real good at-bats at me."