For eight innings Friday night, Nationals Park looked like Edwin Jackson’s world. When he was dominant, he retired 11 Milwaukee Brewers batters in a row, and when he got into a little trouble, defense bailed him out.
“It was all right. I had some great defensive plays behind me. That definitely doesn’t hurt. We have guys making plays for you,” Jackson said. “Just great defense all around.”
A couple of those great defensive plays were obviously overshadowed by the ninth-inning implosion that led to Washington’s 4-2 loss, but Jackson didn’t forget. First there was Bryce Harper’s laser from center field to gun down Ryan Braun in the fourth; then there was catcher Jesus Flores’ perfect throw to second on a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play to end the eighth.
Meanwhile, Jackson quietly had himself a night: No walks, six strikeouts and just one earned run on six hits.
“He was great. He started the game a little bit up, hung a slider to [Jonathan] Lucroy. But after that he got back down and he was great,” manager Davey Johnson said. “It was a great outing.”
The great outing included a strikeout of Braun after the reigning National League MVP doubled the first two times he came to the plate.
“He came out and hit the double the second inning. Then he hit a slider that I left up for a double as well,” Jackson said. “Tough hitter like that you just have to bear down and make pitches on a lot of guys that can hit.”
Johnson said Jackson displayed “postseason demeanor” Friday night. That’s essential to the Nats because the 29-year-old is the only member of the starting rotation with MLB playoff experience.
Jackson had 101 pitches through eight and Johnson was tempted to leave the veteran in. But his spot in the lineup was due up.
“I might’ve [stuck with Jackson],” Johnson said. “But I felt like here we have a chance to add on, I’m going to add on.”
Said Jackson: “It’s National League play. It’s a close game. Calls like that, you know, game-time decisions. If he does send me back out there, I’m definitely ready to go. But I mean, we have guys that can hit off the bench so we’re trying to get that extra run or two.”
The Nationals didn’t get that insurance run or two, and co-closer Tyler Clippard allowed three runs and watched the game slip away.
A tough way to lose on any night, but especially the way Jackson pitched.
“EJ’s pretty unbelievable when he goes out there and shows his stuff,” Harper said. “I think he battled his tail off out there, threw a great eight innings and just has nothing to show for it.”