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NATIONALS: Edwin Jackson Throws Two-Hitter In Victory Over Reds

By ZAC BOYER | | @ZacBoyer

WASHINGTON – The talk was brief, concise and efficient. It had to be. There was nothing about Edwin Jackson’s start that wasn’t.

Washington Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty strolled to the mound in the eighth inning, right after Jackson walked Cincinnati left field Chris Heisey on four pitches, and asked him a single question.

Do you want to finish the game?

“He goes yes,” McCatty said, “and I said, ‘Well, if you want it, tell me you want it.’ He said, ‘I want it,’ [monotone] like that, and I felt like a drill sergeant. ‘Tell me like you got ‘em there!’ I knew he wanted it. He was throwing the ball great.”

Jackson responded by striking out the next three batters, then retired the side on seven pitches in the ninth, and finished with what he considered one of the best performances of his career – a two-hit, 4-1 victory over the Reds on Saturday at Nationals Park.

The hard-throwing right-hander has thrown a complete game before. He’s even thrown a no-hitter – the much-scrutinized, 149-pitch, eight-walk affair with Arizona in June 2010 that essentially got his manager fired less than a week later.

But this was different for Jackson, who ranked the victory with the no-hitter, a four-hitter for Detroit against the Los Angeles Angels a year earlier and last year’s shutout of the Tigers for the Chicago White Sox as amongst his best performances.

He threw only 92 pitches, 67 for strikes, and struck out nine. Sixteen consecutive batters stepped to the plate after Drew Stubbs’ RBI single in the second inning and all sat down, and manager Davey Johnson even admitted to feeling a bit foolish sending McCatty up for the chat after Heisey’s walk ended the streak.

“When I’m seeing a gem, and we need it, and I’m seeing lights out, it makes me nervous,” Johnson said. “I don’t usually get nervous, but when you see something like that – I mean, he had a low pitch count, just a dominating game – it’s kind of like you don’t want anything to go wrong, so you kind of protect against all contingencies. You’re all wound up, you know?”

The Nationals (7-2), who won their fifth consecutive game and tied the 1974 Montreal Expos for the best start in franchise history, needed that type of performance from Jackson. Only Tyler Clippard was fully rested after the team used six pitchers in a 13-inning victory Friday night over the Reds (3-6), and Johnson indeed got Clippard up in the bullpen when Jackson issued the walk.

He wasn’t needed – just like the pep talk.

“You just get caught up in the game and you just try to stay on the groove, and everything else becomes a blur,” Jackson said. “You just want to go out and throw to the glove and get outs.”

The start was yet another in a streak of strong performances by the rotation, which has now only allowed two runs in the last 34 innings dating back to Jackson’s last start against the New York Mets on Wednesday.

In recent games, the starts helped offset stagnant efforts by the offense. That wasn’t true Saturday, with the Nationals answering Cincinnati’s run with one of its own in the second, adding two on an RBI double by Adam LaRoche in the third and adding insurance in the seventh when Jayson Werth’s double drove in Danny Espinosa.

“We’ve got five guys running out there that we feel like, yeah, we want to score seven, eight, 10 runs, but if it doesn’t happen, there’s a good chance we’re still gonna win the game,” LaRoche said.

Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey went six innings, giving up seven hits and walking four to fall to 0-2. LaRoche and Werth each finished 2-for-3; Miguel Cairo got the Reds’ only other hit, a double, and scored the run on Stubbs’ double.

Only then and after the game, when he was near the steps to the dugout waiting for the post-game, in-stadium televised interview, was Jackson ever uncomfortable. At that point, Jesus Flores, his catcher, and Wilson Ramos snuck up behind the pitcher and gave him a Gatorade bath.

Jackson whooped and smiled and raised his arms in celebration. He wanted it.

“He knew what he had to do,” McCatty said. “It was one way or the other – ‘Take a beating like a man or do well. It’s in your hands.’ And he went out there and he rose to the occasion.”


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