Nationals 5, Mets 3
The current 14-game stretch against National League East opponents is almost over and the Nats have fared well. With one more game left against the Mets on Thursday afternoon, Washington has a chance to improve to 9-5 over the last 18 days. A sweep would put them at 15-7 on the season against their division rivals – a massive advantage if they want to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot throughout the season. Between now and the All-Star Break in mid-July, a three-game series in Atlanta on June 29-July 1 is the only other time the Nats will play an N.L. East team.
All of this was made possible by a 5-3 win on Wednesday night at Nationals Park. Check out the details in our game story here. Adam LaRoche had a monster game with a three-run home run in the first inning and four RBI in all. That’s a pretty good way to erase a 6-for-49 slump that’s taken hold of LaRoche in recent weeks. Washington manager Davey Johnson had a premonition. He claims he told bench coach Randy Knorr that LaRoche “’has been quiet for a long time. He’s going to start getting hot.’ And ‘Boom!’ He hit a heck of a pitch. Looked like it was a curve ball down and in. He’s been our main offense pretty much all year.”
Full credit to Edwin Jackson, who has been abandoned by his teammates more often than not this season. Well, he earned his second win after pitching seven innings of three-hit ball. The walks – all four of them – hurt Jackson’s cause. So did a throwing error on a pickoff attempt in the fourth inning. Jackson said the ball just slipped out of his hand on the wild throw to first base. LaRoche had no chance and David Wright went all the way to third on the play. Jackson’s ERA is down to 3.11. That’s about as good as you’re going to do for a “fourth” starter – a pitcher who has been overshadowed by Stephen Strasburg (2.35 ERA), Gio Gonzalez (2.31 ERA) and Jordan Zimmermann (2.82 ERA) in the rotation yet still contributed his fair share.
“[Jackson] was exceptional,” Johnson said. “Just what we needed. He’s done it before. Seven strong innings and he probably had a little bit left in the tank, but I like my bullpen the way it’s set up.”
A walk total that has hovered between 70 and 90 in the past dropped to 62 last season. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo said before the season that his field personnel thought they could make some tweaks to Jackson’s mechanics and help keep those walks down. So far, so good. If he made a full complement of 32 starts, Jackson is on pace for 55 walks even after giving the Mets four on Wednesday. That would be by far his lowest total since becoming a full-time starter for Tampa Bay in 2007.
“It’s just been a matter of coming at hitters,” Jacksons said. “Try to cut down on walks and make them put the ball in play and take your chances. You have a great defense that’s playing behind you. Those are guys that are going to make plays. You’re on the mound you want to throw as many strikes as possible and put the pressure on the opposing team.”
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