In a 162 game baseball season it’s hard to qualify an early May series as a test, no matter the circumstances and no matter the teams involved. But for a team with World Series aspirations, sweeping the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers in a two-game series felt about as good as it possibly could for the Nationals.

Whether it is early May or late September, a deep lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder can be considered a measuring stick for any team.

“I think everyone was really excited for this series to begin within the clubhouse,” winning pitcher Dan Haren said. “It’s always fun playing a team of that caliber. You get fired up to see guys like Cabrera and Fielder and everyone in the clubhouse was excited for it.”

Haren earned his fourth win of the season after going six innings with four earned runs, nine hits, and a walk. He gave up three of the four runs in the sixth inning after cruising through his first 5 2/3 frames. The trio of late scores came off one swing of the bat, a three-run shot by a pinch-hitting Matt Tuiasosopo.

It was one mistake that blemished an otherwise crisp afternoon, despite the fact Haren did not feel his best.

“I really didn’t have much out there, I was kind of searching for it all game. I was able to wiggle myself through,” he said. “It’s just funny how it works, I held the one through four guys in check but the bottom of the lineup just killed me.”

For all that is made about the heart of the Tigers’ order, Haren had no trouble with batters one through four. Cabrera, Fielder, Austin Jackson, and Torii Hunter in fact went a combined 4-for-20 with no extra base hits and three strikeouts in the game. It was the back end of Detroit’s order that gave Haren problems, even pitcher Doug Fister who singled home a run off the Nats’ starter in the second inning.

Haren was fortunate to have help, though. The Nationals scored three runs in the first inning to take an early lead and give the veteran some breathing room while pitching in the rain against a tough lineup.

“When a guy doesn’t have his best stuff, if you’re pitching from behind that could be not a very good thing,” he said. “We were able to get a few off a really good pitcher in Fister today early and those runs held up.”