Nats turn to experienced Jackson for Game 3

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Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

The Nationals signed right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson for just these situations. Looking for depth in its starting rotation, knowing Stephen Strasburg would not pitch the entire year, general manager Mike Rizzo had to bolster his team’s pitching depth. Maybe a postseason series wasn’t foremost in his mind, but it matters more than ever now that Washington is locked in a 1-1 National League Division Series with the powerful St. Louis Cardinals. Jackson is set to start Game 3 on Wednesday at 1:07 p.m.

That “innings shortage” Rizzo spoke of after signing Jackson was effectively plugged. No other team had as effective a starting rotation. Now comes the other bonus: A pitcher with playoff experience.  No one else on staff has it.

“I feel like I’m the only with the experience in the rotations now.  It’s high expectations on me.  I have high expectations on myself, as well,” Jackson said. “This is one of those games where you go out and you try to lead by example.  You know, we are 1‑1.  This is a big game for both teams.  Both teams are trying to come out and win this game and go ahead in the series.”

Added teammate Ryan Zimmerman: “He’s pitched a ton in the postseason and throughout the whole regular season, our starting staff is relatively young still and for him to be able to talk to them and give them advice on how to be ready every fifth day has really helped them throughout the regular season. For him to have that experience and go out there in a pivotal game in the series is going to be great for us.”

The Cardinals are familiar with the former teammate, who pitched for them last fall en route to a World Series title. Jackson started 12 games and made 13 appearances during the regular season in 2011 for St. Louis after a mid-season trade from the Chicago White Sox. In 17 2/3 postseason innings over four starts he was 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA. But he pitched into the fifth inning in three of his four starts, allowed three runs or less in three of them and had his numbers skewed by an ugly two-inning, four-run effort in the deciding Game 6 of last year’s NLCS. St. Louis won anyway 12-6 and secured the pennant and a spot in the World Series.

“At this point, I’m out to help my team win,” Jackson said. “I’m not out to prove a point to anyone.  I’m not out with a chip on my shoulder.  I mean, everyone knows my capabilities.  It’s just a matter of being consistent with it.”

St. Louis battered Jackson on Sept. 28 at Busch Stadium when they knocked him out after 1 1/3 innings and scored nine runs, eight of them earned. But he got his former teammates on Aug. 30 with eight shutout innings and one unearned run allowed in a Washington 8-1 win. It was a tale of two starts.

“We saw him in two completely different ways, and when we saw him last [month] in Washington, he was very, very good,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “So we are going to put that game plan into our mind as that’s what we are going to see and figure out what kind of adjustments we need to make to be prepared for that. But the guys, as far as a game plan goes, they have an individual idea of what they need to do to be successful, and it’s just a matter of execution after that.”

So what do you get when the “good” Jackson is on the mound?

“He’s establishing the strike zone early in the game. He’s throwing strikes,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “Pitching to both sides of the plate and he has a good slider usually working that day, too. [Jackson’s] just got to come out there and establish the fastball, pitch to both sides of the plate, move the ball around and he’ll be fine.”

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