ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It had been so long since Dan Haren had won a game, he actually had no idea when the last time was.
"I honestly don't," Haren said. "I really don't."
Haren ended a career-long 10-game winless skid with his first victory as an Angel, giving up five hits and one run in seven innings, to help the Angels beat the Kansas City Royals 3-1 on Tuesday night.
"I don't even remember that far back," said Haren, who was traded to the Angels on July 25. "I couldn't even tell you about that start."
Haren almost looked as if he was still trying to soak up the feeling of winning a game as he stood in front of his locker, loud music thumping through the clubhouse and teammates giving him a pat on the back as they passed by him.
"I didn't have the [10-game winless streak] in my head, but I really wanted the team to win a game that I pitched," Haren said. "The three games prior I pitched, we didn't win and that was the toughest part for me. Every time I pitched I came into the clubhouse quiet and it sucks driving home at night. Tonight I came in here the music is playing, everybody is happy and we can go home with a good feeling."
It wasn't that Haren wasn't pitching well enough to win games. In fact, it could be argued Haren pitched better in a couple of his losses and no-decisions than he did Tuesday. He had not walked a batter in two of his three starts with the Angels and in seven games this season. He had given up four runs or fewer in six of his past seven starts. It wasn't as if Haren was getting shelled, he just wasn't getting any help. If it wasn't the atrocious defense in Arizona, it was the equally dreadful run support in Anaheim that was preventing him from getting in the win column.
"The one thing a pitcher can't control is a win," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You can control everything about executing pitches and do everything right, but if you don't get support in the field and at the plate it's not going to turn into a win. I think it's obvious in the games he's started he's pitched well enough to win."
Pitching well enough to win, however, isn't the same as winning, and moral victories aren't going to get the Angels back into a playoff race everyone except for the players sitting outside of Scioscia's office has counted them out of.
"I think it's really important for us to focus on our clubhouse," Scioscia said. "If the media and the fans want to think we're the next best thing since sliced bread or they think we're a fluke, that's irrelevant to what our challenge is. We need to play baseball and we're a better team than what we've shown to this point."
Few skeptics would have believed him a couple of weeks ago, but after winning four of the their past five games, the Angels are at least playing like a team that isn't 8 1/2 games behind the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. Some of the changes they've made might have been with the future in mind, but it's at least making the present something worth watching.
Rookie Peter Bourjos, for example, has been a breath of fresh air since coming up to play center field in place of Torii Hunter, who slid over to play right field. He drove in the go-ahead run with a suicide squeeze in the fifth inning for the Angels and continues to amaze his teammates with his blistering speed.
Hunter, who served the fourth and final game of his suspension Tuesday, not only marveled at Bourjos' ability and potential before the game but said he made the move to right field this season because he still believes the team has a chance to win.
"There are some plays he's made out there where I'm like, 'Wow, this guy can fly,' " Hunter said. "I still think I can play center field with anybody, but it's not about individual stuff, it's about winning now. I have Golden Gloves and Silver Sluggers; I don't have a ring and I want one. I'm here to win and I think this makes the team better."
After watching the Angels break out from a funk that saw them lose eight of 10 games and breaking out of his own 10-game winless streak, Haren is hopeful Tuesday's result is only the beginning of a turnaround.
"It sucks to not have won a game I've pitched since I've been here when the games mean so much," he said. "You kind of forget how to win a game at some point. Maybe it's like a home run hitter. You hit them in bunches and then you go on a drought and come back, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come."
Quote of the day
"I feel like an outcast. I feel bad man. I've been serving my sentence. I got 24 more hours. Then I get released. The first thing I'm going to do is eat a hamburger. I'm gonna call my wife and tell her I'm comin' home." -- Hunter, comparing his four-game suspension to being in jail.
Jered Weaver (11-7, 2.96 ERA) will face Royals ace Zack Greinke (7-11, 4.14), who won the 2009 Cy Young, in the finale of the season series with Kansas City. Hunter also will be returning after serving his four-game suspension. He will be making his home debut in right field after the nine-time Gold Glove center fielder moved there to make room for Bourjos. Hunter has batted .500 (8 for 16) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in his past four games.
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.