Okay, maybe it’s not proper to joke about the Washington Nationals shutting down their ace pitcher once he reaches his innings limit. But if the alternative is more starts like last night’s from Edwin Jackson, then pass the Kool-Aid.
Jackson, pitching against the team that he helped earn World Series rings for last season, was masterful, striking out 10 in eight innings — allowing just one unearned run — leading the Nats to an 8-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the teams’ first meeting of 2012, before 23,269 at Nationals Park.
The Nats extended their lead in the N.L. East to 5 1/2 games over the idle Atlanta Braves.
Jackson (W, 8-9, 3.53) struck out seven of the first 12 batters he faced and was never really threatened by one of the N.L.’s top offenses. Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, on the other hand, was in trouble from the get-go, walking Jayson Werth to lead off the first, then serving up a line drive home run to suddenly scalding hot Bryce Harper, his 15th of the season. The onslaught continued into the middle innings and five Nats in total ended up with multi-hit games in the 13 hit effort.
Werth added his fourth homer of the season in the fifth inning off Garcia (L, 3-6, 4.52) and ended up 2-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored in the leadoff spot. Harper drove in three total, singling in a run later in the sixth and Jesus Flores went 2-for-4 with a big hit in the seventh inning, singling in two runs off reliever Lance Lynn, a high school teammate of Nats reliever Drew Storen.
THE TAKEAWAY: Jackson was good. I mean, really good. When he wasn’t striking out batters with his terrific slider, he was allowing the natural sink on his fastball to generate ground ball outs (11 in total, compared to two fly outs).
It’s a perfect combination and when Jackson doesn’t try to be too fine and just allows his pitches to do the work, as he did last night and his two-hitter earlier in the season, he shows just how dominant he can be.
Yes, the team is going to shut down Strasburg and not allow him to pitch in the playoffs. If Jackson gets on a roll, it may not matter at all.
THE GOOD: Harper. Yes, the line drive homer was fun. But his opposite field single later in the game was just as impressive. He’s been eaten alive by slop on the outside corner, especially from lefties. This time, he was patient, let the ball get to the plate and just flipped it out into left field. When he can do that on a regular basis, his average will explode. And pitchers will have to come back inside. Where he crushes things.
THE BAD: Adam LaRoche was 0-for-3 with a walk, but did plate a run with a sac fly. Yeah, I know. Nitpicking.
THE UGLY: Ryan Zimmerman’s overhand throws. Jeez, it’s unsightly. Last night’s only run came courtesy of Zimmerman’s airmailing of a routine grounder on another awkward ugly overhand throw. It’s like he’s trying to guide a shotput across the infield. He just needs to throw everything on the run and from the side. Maybe they ought to move him to shortstop.
THE STATS: 13 hits, 5 BBs, 5 Ks. 3-for-11 with RISP, 9 LOB, no GIDP. E: Zimmerman (11), no DPs.
NEXT GAME: Friday at 7:05 pm against the Cardinals. Gio Gonzalez (16-7, 3.28) hosts Adam Wainwright (13-10, 3.63).