Jackson struggles as Nationals are left on the brink in the NL Division Series

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Photo - Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

The Nationals needed a strong performance from their most experienced starting pitcher in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.

They didn't get one. Edwin Jackson, torched by the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 28 in a regular-season game, gave up four runs in the first two innings of an eventual 8-0 loss. That put Washington in a bind down 2-1 in this best-of-five series. They need to win the next two Thursday and Friday to keep their season alive.

(View photo galleries with images from the game or the scene at Nationals Park)

Nats manager Davey Johnson said Tuesday that his team's starting pitching hasn't been good enough. Gio Gonzalez struggled in Game 1 with an astounding seven walks in five innings. Jordan Zimmermann wasn't much better in Game 2 on Monday with five runs allowed in three innings. Both men put their team in a hole from which they could not recover.

Up next
Cardinals at Nationals
Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) vs. Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.40 ERA)
When » Thursday, 4:07 p.m.
Where » Nationals Park
TV » TBS
Radio » 106.7 the Fan,
WFED 1500, WHFS 1580
Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler gets a chance to put his final regular-season start behind him in Game 4 of this NL Division Series. Unfortunately, that loss came in St. Louis, his hometown, against these same Cardinals. He gave up seven runs -- though only three of them earned -- in 2 1/3 innings of a 10-4 loss. He only gave up four hits that Sept. 30 afternoon but walked a career-high five. That won't cut it against a powerful offense that's clicking right now. St. Louis counters with ace Kyle Lohse, who beat the Braves in the wild-card game last week.

"The starters pretty much set the tone for the bullpen," Jackson said Tuesday. "And if you can go out and you can dominate, you pretty much set the tone and allow the bullpen to come in and do their job and what they are capable of doing. It's imperative for us to go out and establish command and establish control of the game so that when we do hand it over to them, they can come in more comfortable."

Jackson had started seven previous postseason games with a mixed bag of success. In seven playoff games -- four starts, three relief appearances -- he had a 4.91 ERA. It was more bad than good Wednesday. Jackson retired the first two batters he faced, but Matt Holliday singled with two out, and Allen Craig followed with a double down the line in left. Holliday scored easily.

Usually the first inning has given Jackson fits in 2012. This time it was the second that proved his undoing. He gave up a hard double to David Freese to lead off the frame and a single by No. 7 batter Daniel Descalso. Then No. 8 batter Pete Kozma, who had homered twice in 72 at-bats this season, ripped one just over the wall in left for a devastating three-run blast to make it 4-0.

Jackson settled down with double plays in the second and third innings and retired 10 of the last 13 batters he faced before departing. But it was too late.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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