CHICAGO -- Dan Haren showed speed isn't always the most important factor to having success on the mound.
Despite throwing every pitch under 90 miles per hour, Haren allowed just five hits and one run in six strong innings to lead the Washington Nationals to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
"In the beginning of the year, I was throwing harder and my stuff was nasty," Haren said, "but I was getting burned by the homers and the one mistake I would make would kill me."
Since being activated from the disabled list on July 8, Haren (8-11) is 4-2 with a 2.20 earned run average in eight starts.
"It's been unbelievable," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He's been really pitching good. He's shown he's a quality pitcher and he's bounced back and pitched great."
Asked for his take on the secret to Haren's success against the Cubs while topping out at 89 mph, Johnson said: "He locates, changes speeds, hits his spots. Velocity is way overrated."
Ryan Zimmerman had two hits and drove in a run, and Bryce Harper also had two hits and scored a crucial ninth-inning run for Washington.
Zimmerman had two doubles and could have had two more hits as he lined out to third base in the third inning to start a double play and hit a hard shot at the centre fielder in the seventh.
Harper doubled leading off the ninth and scored on Ian Desmond's RBI single to right field. Denard Span, a late-inning defensive replacement, added a run-scoring single for the Nationals' final run.
Rafael Soriano gave up a leadoff homer to Donnie Murphy in the bottom of the ninth before getting the last three outs for his 32nd save in 38 chances.
Cubs starter Chris Rusin (2-3) gave up two runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings, managing to work out of jam after jam with minimal damage.
"Just made a couple mistakes that cost me, but I was able to get out of jams, so I helped myself out there," he said.
Last September, Rusin was roughed up for five runs on eight hits in one inning against the Nationals.
"It was better than last year against these guys," Rusin said. "We didn't get the win. That's the bad part about it. Just got to learn from a couple mistakes."
The Cubs' offence -- which scored just 12 runs in eight home games before an 11-run outburst on Monday -- went back into its Wrigley Field struggles.
"It is what it is right now," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We score on home runs. Today, both solo home runs."
For Haren, the last week has been a whirlwind. He pitched six innings in a start against San Francisco last Thursday, and then made a relief appearance on Saturday, pitching one inning to earn the save in the Nats' 15-inning win over Atlanta. There was some concern about how Haren would bounce back.
"I felt fine physically, but warming up, it was just a little tougher to get loose," he said. "The first inning or two was a battle, but as the game progressed my stuff got better.
"I didn't have my best stuff, especially in the beginning like I said. My cutter was real good. I worked that in on lefties a lot. I didn't throw quite as many splits and my fastball got better as the game went along."
The Nationals took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning as Zimmerman opened with a double, moved to third on Jayson Werth's single and scored one out later on Tyler Moore's run-scoring infield single.
Washington went ahead in the top of the first. Ian Desmond reached on a fielder's chose when the Cubs failed to turn a seemingly routine double play, and then scored on Zimmerman's double to left field.
The Cubs tied it in the bottom of the fourth on Brian Bogusevic's first homer of the season, a two-out shot to right field that landed in the first row of the bleachers.
NOTES: After the game, the Nationals optioned LHP Ian Krol to Class AAA Syracuse to make room for RHP Ross Ohlendorf. "He's still learning up here," Johnson said of Krol, "but he's got a heck of a future." ... Cubs SS Starlin Castro batted eighth for the first time this season. He went 0 for 4 to extend his slump to 1 for 27. ... After being sent to the minors earlier in the season, Nationals reliever Drew Storen is back and throwing the ball more effectively, coming off three scoreless appearances in Atlanta during the weekend. ... The four-game series continues Wednesday night with the Ohlendorf (2-0) facing the Cubs' Jake Arrieta (1-0).