A year ago Edwin Jackson was helping the St. Louis Cardinals on a successful mad, dramatic dash towards the postseason. That memorable September set up an October for the ages as he helped his club win a World Series title.
Those are fond memories, for sure. But, now part of the Nationals formidable rotation, Jackson showed no kindness to his friends and former teammates on Thursday at Nationals Park. In the first meeting between Washington and St. Louis this season Jackson was dominant in an 8-1 win.
“It’s a lot of fun. You get to come and pitch against friends,” Jackson said. “They trying to hit me though. I’m still trying to get them out, so there’s no friends once the game’s going on, but it’s a lot of fun to throw against the guys that I had a chance to battle with last year and win a ring.”
He pitched eight innings with just one unearned run allowed thanks to a rare Ryan Zimmerman error at third base. Jackson struck out 10 batters – the second time he’s reached double digits this season and the seventh time he’s done so in his career – and helped the Nats’ pitching staff set a new record (1,070) for total strikeouts since the team moved to the District in 2005. He gave up just four hits and walked two batters. The Cardinals put just one runner in scoring position through the first seven innings.
“Well that was a gem,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said. “I mean, good hitting ball club, and [Jackson] had electric stuff. I know he would’ve liked to have finished it. Tried to give him that chance, but wasn’t going to let him throw too many pitches.”
Jackson threw a season-high 123 pitches, but that’s nothing strange for a pitcher who has topped 140 in his career. Johnson said he has no problem pushing Jackson to about 130 pitches, if needed. Considering the Nats just began a stretch of 16 games in 16 days and the bullpen might need an all-hands-on-deck approach against the powerful Cardinals in a four-game series this weekend it was a welcome effort. And yet another reminder why Washington’s players really believe they remain a viable contender even after ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg is shut down within the next two weeks.
“It’s good. We’re good. I like our team. I like our chances,” outfielder Jayson Werth said. “People keep talking about Stras. You know, Edwin Jackson is a heck of a pitcher. The game (against the Mets on Aug. 18) I was playing center and he pitched a great game. He gave up a homer late, but the whole game he was 95 [miles-per-hour] with sink and I got to see him from center field and I was really impressed. He’s a big-game pitcher. He won big games last year late in the year, in the postseason. Take Stras out and put Edwin in. I like it.”
The lone St. Louis run came in the eighth when Bryan Anderson led off with a double to right field and then scored when Zimmerman fielded a grounder from Jon Jay and threw it into the stands. Jackson calmly struck out Carlos Beltran, got Matt Holliday to ground out to second and Allen Craig to fly out to right to end the rally before it started. He received a boisterous ovation from the smaller-than-expected crowd of 23,269 as he made his way into the dugout.
After the seventh inning, with his turn at the plate upcoming, Jackson kept both his shin guard and batting gloves on along with his helmet. It was a not-so-subtle message to Johnson: I’m staying in this game. Jackson was pitching on an extra day’s rest and felt strong.
Jackson struck out six of his 10 victims with a sharp slider. That pitch was set up by a cut fastball that darts inside on right-handed batters and dips low in the strike zone, too. Nats catcher Jesus Flores three times had to block pitches in the dirt and fire to first base to complete strikeouts after the Cardinals swung and missed. Didn’t hurt that Jackson’s fastball was again touching the mid-90s, either.
“And I think the way we’ve been working out together and talking a lot, the game plan, he really throws whatever I put down and I really trust him whenever he wants to throw any other pitch,” Flores said. “I think that’s a big thing to do, a big part of the game.”
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