By Tom Schad
Edwin Jackson struck out two of his first four batters Sunday against the Miami Marlins and looked well on his way to another strong outing. But after three straight ground balls sneaked through the infield, translating into three quick runs when Bryce Harper lost a routine fly ball in the sun, Jackson was noticeably rattled.
“I thought Jackson was going to throw a nasty game, the way he started, and then he just started getting more deliberate and more deliberate,” manager Davey Johnson said after the game. “[He] had me a little bit worried because he was taking a long time in between pitches, and he said he was fine. [Pitching coach Steve McCatty] had asked him to speed it up, tempo, and stop weighing every pitch as much.”
Jackson lasted just 4 2/3 innings and picked up his tenth loss of the season Sunday. He allowed six earned runs and nine hits while walking two batters and plunking a third. After averaging nine strikeouts in his last four starts, Jackson only struck out two on Sunday.
“I really couldn’t feel it if I was deliberate,” he said. “It’s just one of those things you have to work on and come up from the beginning with a quicker pace.”
Jackson has been an effective addition to the Nationals’ rotation this season, but he’s been as hit-or-miss as anyone else on the staff. He’s capable of throwing a gem, like his four-hit shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 30. But when he slows down and lingers on each pitch, he’s just as capable of struggling like he did Sunday.
“He’s done that before,” Johnson said. “I thought maybe with the number of hits he was giving up, maybe he was just tired, that’s why he was taking his time. I didn’t want to push him.”