Given up for dead during a five-game losing streak, Haren has won three of his last four starts after Friday night's 6-2 Dodgers win over the Mets, itself a microcosm of Haren's season.
He allowed a home run to the first batter of the game, Curtis Granderson, then retired 19 of the next 22. He whiffed on a squeeze bunt to cost a runner in scoring position, then followed with a tie-breaking RBI single.
With a three-hit night from Dee Gordon (including an MLB-leading 11th triple) leading the offense, Haren threw a three-hitter for seven innings with six strikeouts and no walks. And that was a turnaround from his previous start, which lasted only three innings against Milwaukee.
With Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett on the disabled list, Clayton Kershaw having missed six weeks earlier and Zack Greinke dealing with elbow issues now, Haren hasn't missed a start this year.
Is he proud of that?
"A lot, especially as I was on the brink of not being in the starting rotation," he said, referring to suggestions he would lose his rotation spot. "To watch what Clayton does, unfortunately I pitch the day after he pitches and I think the standards get set kind of high."
Even with a five-game losing streak through July, Haren is 11-10 overall. He hit a $250,000 incentive clause with his 150th inning and needs 30 more innings to guarantee a player option for $10 million next year, although he sounded sincere when he said it doesn't matter.
"It may sound stupid, but who knows if I'll want to play?" he said. "I'd rather throw 179 2/3 innings this year and win the division. I've made enough money in my life [$70 million plus]. I don't want to demean that, make it sound like I'm a snob, but my goal is to win. That [next year] is the last thing on my mind."
Haren said his improvement on the mound in recent starts has coincided with an adjustment in pitch reliance, shifting away from the cutter he leaned on earlier, while throwing more curveballs.
"I've adjusted the gameplan," he said. "I really had good stuff, that's why I was so mad giving up the home run to start the game. I felt it would be a good day, that I wiped away the last one. I wanted to stay on track. The curveball has gotten better as the year's gone on."
While the Mets were committing three errors that led to three unearned runs, the Dodgers were turning three double plays.
"It should have been a 2-1 game," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "We certainly couldn't make the plays. If you look up and you have as many errors as you have hits, that's not a good feeling."
Haren helped his cause with a comeback at-bat in the fifth inning, atoning for the missed squeeze with a tie-breaking RBI single.
"I haven't done a squeeze since Spring Training and got a little antsy," he said of the malfunction that resulted in Justin Turner getting tagged out after extending the rundown long enough for Erisbel Arruebarrena to advance to third. "Luckily, I put on a good at-bat to get the lead."
Then the Mets helped out, with shortstop Wilmer Flores' second error of the night leading to three unearned runs in the seventh inning.
The Dodgers tied the game in the second inning despite a backfiring bunt. A.J. Ellis led off the second with a walk, Arruebarrena singled him to second and Haren was asked to sacrifice. Jon Niese fielded the bunt, threw out Ellis at third and David Wright's throw across the diamond beat Haren to first for a double play. But Dee Gordon bounced a single just inside third base to score Arruebarrena from second.
Gordon is batting .289 and hasn't been lower than .285 since late June.
"I think the main thing Dee has done is stay within his approach, and he's backed the ball up," said manager Don Mattingly. "He's hit numerous balls down the third-base line. That tells you he's letting the ball get deep. He's doing it against righties and lefties.
"I think Dee has not panicked this year. That's the main thing. He stays with his approach, and it tells you when you stay with something things go back into place. You're going to go through struggles. You're going to get hot, you're going to get cold. There are going to be stretches where you go from .300 to .290 to .280 back to .295, so he stays within the approach."