VIERA, Fla. — Edwin Jackson was motoring along in the first inning Tuesday night. He needed 10 pitches, it seemed, to make quick work of the top of the Detroit Tigers’ lineup.
But then his 10th went into the air toward left field and Jason Michaels, positioned under it but battling some difficult sun, dropped the routine fly ball. The error extended an inning that was as good as finished.
Three pitches later, Ryan Raburn took an inside fastball and deposited it on the berm in left field. Bad luck, huh, Edwin?
“It just depends on what you consider bad luck,” Jackson said, after shutting down the Tigers in the second but allowing a run off three hits in the third and another following back-to-back walks to open the fourth.
“Walks aren’t bad luck. A home run is a home run. You make your pitch. I think it was a pretty good pitch and he put the ball in play. Errors happen. Mistakes happen.”
Jackson threw 64 pitches Tuesday night but only 36 of them were strikes and he threw 10 of 17 pitches in the fourth inning for balls. He got the most swing-and-misses, he said, on his slider — including a nasty one to strike out Andy Dirks in the first inning, but didn’t throw a single curveball.
“Jackson he was not as sharp as he was the other day,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “He had trouble getting (the ball) down and then he worked on getting it down the next inning and it was a little too down.”
“It’s location,” Johnson added. “He was a little up. He knew it. And then when he did get down… I thought some of them were strikes. I guess it’s spring training for (the umpires), too.”
Jackson felt out of sync in the fourth inning, he said, but dismissed any question of his mechanics (which have been a topic of conversation this spring as the Nationals try to help him avoid tipping pitches) being an issue.
Even after surrendering the back-to-back walk, Jackson had a shot at getting out of the inning when Ryan Strieby sent a ball up the middle. Ian Desmond made rangy play to get to it, but tripped as he slid past the second base bag and was unable to turn a double play, settling for just one out at second base. The ball, which Jackson said had “some funky spin on it,” scooted past him, but asked if thought he could have made a play on it himself he chuckled.
“If I was like Greg Maddux, perfectly sound and everything straight up I might have had a chance,” he said.
One batter later, Laird’s single ended Jackson’s night.
It was the first start of the spring in which Jackson has surrendered any runs. He allowed four Tuesday night in 3 1/3 innings, but only two of them were earned.
“At the end of the day you’re always one pitch away,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve felt. The results are not necessarily the best but it’s spring training. We get caught up in results in spring training when spring training is a time when you’re getting ready for the season.
“That’s what we’re out here doing. (Second) game I had a walk, so I’m not going to go kill myself.”