- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 27, 2017

Edwin Jackson wore his cleats in the dugout during his first stint with the Washington Nationals. Back in 2012, Jackson was a 28-year-old regular in the rotation. He threw 189⅔ innings that season. When he didn’t pitch, he had on the proper footwear in case he needed to run.

Since he rejoined the team July 18, Jackson has been the personal escort for the ghost of Adam Lind. Lind will be sent to the plate late in games, often reach base, then be replaced by Jackson. That system ran its course again Sunday in the bottom of the ninth inning. Daniel Murphy was coming up, once again poised to torment his former team, the New York Mets, after a Lind single. Jackson jogged out to first base. Lind jogged in.

One sharp crack of the bat sent Jackson past second, rolling toward third, where he figured he would be stopped. The Nationals were down a run and Murphy’s single had sizzled into the right-center field gap. But when the ball was overrun in the outfield, Washington third base coach Bob Henley cranked his arm in the air, sending Jackson past third for home.

Jackson knew multiple things: Teammate Howie Kendrick was behind the plate waving him to slide to his right. Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud was slightly up the third base line. If Jackson is out, they lose. If he’s in, the game is tied. He could run over the catcher. The last time he did that was high school when he was an outfielder. Considering d'Arnaud’s position, he needed a headfirst slide to avoid a tag.

Jackson was out. His journey from first in the Nationals’ 6-5 Sunday afternoon loss to open a day-night doubleheader went from a thrill to argument.

The Nationals believed d'Arnaud improperly blocked the plate.

Washington manager Dusty Baker came out to argue the point with homeplate umpire Andy Fletcher, who spent much of the day irritating the Nationals’ with his called third strike choices.

The umpires were then yelled at by New York manager Terry Collins before crew chief Bill Welke pulled on a headset to see if d'Arnaud had violated the recently installed homeplate collision rule. Thirty seconds later, a clenched fist signaled that the call stood. Everyone was sent for a three-hour break before game two.

“We thought that he blocked the plate,” Baker said. “He didn’t give him a lane. It didn’t take them very long to make that decision from New York. But from where I was he didn’t have any chance of touching the plate. That’s what it looked like to me.”

Jackson’s wife questioned his decision-making after the game. She advised against the head-first slide, as did Baker. Jackson smiled when asked about it. He said he wasn’t thinking about protecting his pitching arm, which was to the outside, or any other part of his body. He was just trying to score.

“Instincts take over,” Jackson said.

The tension of the ninth was unexpected after Erick Fedde’s discombobulated start. Fedde left the mound after 112 often ineffective pitches in six innings.

Count the fastball Asdrubal Cabrera hit for a three-run homer in the first inning as the least effective.

The Nationals’ young right-hander only fooled the scoreboard in Nationals Park. Fedde throws his fastball 94 mph, on average. Sunday afternoon, it was closer to the 90-, 91-mph range throughout the day. Each time Fedde threw one, the scoreboard claimed it was a changeup. Even Baker noticed the confused electronics. Fedde mentioned that it was becoming late in the season and seemed unconcerned about the drop in velocity.

“My stuff wasn’t as good today,” Fedde said. “It was good the past two. In a sense of composure, I thought it was a lot better.”

Fedde is one of the few remaining representatives of what was a deep Nationals farm system. The former anchor of the system, right-handed Lucas Giolito, was pitching for the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

After being knocked around in Triple-A and in his first appearance for the White Sox, Giolito pitched seven scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers. The one-day comparison is not a referendum on the offseason trade that sent Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez to Chicago for center fielder Adam Eaton. Rather, it illustrates how unlikely it was a year ago that Fedde would be in this spot. Giolito and Lopez were the immediate future. Fedde was expected to wait.

Instead, he’s made three spot starts this season. They have not gone well. Fedde has a 9.39 ERA.

His rough afternoon — five runs, seven hits, two home runs allowed — was almost fixed by a run here and a run there, until the scored was tied, 5-5, following Alejandro De Aza’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning. Amed Rosario’s solo home run in the eighth off Nationals reliever Joe Blanton put the Mets in front, 6-5.

That score stood thanks to a crisp throw from center fielder Juan Lagares to second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, which was followed by a perfect throw from Cabrera to d'Arnaud in the ninth. Jackson arrived just afterward. He was prepared, but too late.

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