Dusty Baker needed length from Edwin Jackson in the second game of last Sunday’s doubleheader in Washington, D.C.
Baker and the Nationals got more than that from Jackson, the 33-year-old, 15-year veteran right-hander, who went seven innings against the visiting Colorado Rockies, allowing just one run on four hits.
“Jackson was sharp, very sharp,” Baker told reporters after the 3-1 win.
“Kept the ball down, had a good slider working today and he threw some changeups that [Pitching Coach] Mike [Maddux has] been [working on with him], that would get them off his fastball and his slider, so that was a real good game for him.”
Jackson talked after the outing about working in the change, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr:
“It’s just location. It was just the focus of the pitch, instead of leaving it up, just aim down on it. But it’s a pitch that I’ve used ... a pitch that I can definitely use more in the repertoire, and add it to the arsenal to get hitters off the fastball and cutters and the slider.”
In three starts for the Nationals before Saturday afternoon’s outing against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, Jackson, (who signed with Chicago in 2013 after pitching for Washington in 2012), had a 2.84 ERA (6 ER in 19 IP), with 14 hits (five of them homers), and five walks allowed (2.37 BB/9), 12 Ks collected (5.68 K/9), and a .203/.257/.435 line against.
Jackson took the mound with a 1-0 lead in the Windy City, and promptly gave up back-to-back doubles on pitches up in the zone to Jon Jay and Kris Bryant as the Cubs tied it up at 1-1. One out later, Willson Contreras hit a weak chopper to the left side that died on the infield grass, scoring Bryant from third, and an 0-1 fastball knee-high outside to Alex Avila cleared the basket above the ivy-covered brick wall in center for a two-out, two-run home run that made it 4-1 Chicago after one.
Jackson retired ten straight after Avila’s blast in the first to get through four on 79 pitches, but Javier Baez ended that streak with an infield single in the bottom of the fifth.
Baez was stranded at third three outs later, when Kris Bryant K’d swinging over a 3-2 slider on Jackson’s 101st pitch of the game to end the fifth, which was Jackson’s final inning of work.
Edwin Jackson’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 101 P, 63 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
Jackson mixed in the changeup again, but his slider (eight swinging strikes on 15 swings) and four-seamer (18 swings, six misses) were his most effective pitches.
He put together a solid outing after the first. What was wrong early?
“It’s just keeping the ball down [in the] first inning,” Jackson said, after what ended up a 7-4 loss.
“They got a couple big hits with balls up in the zone, [the two-run] homer ultimately was the biggest hit of the inning.”
“From then on it’s just keep the game close,” Jackson continued, explaining that with the Nationals’ offense, a three-run deficit isn’t too much to overcome.
“We can definitely come back with three runs. That was my objective, ‘Okay, damage has been done in the first inning, it’s over and there’s nothing I can do about it, make my adjustments and keep us intact.”
The Nationals pulled within one with a two-run fourth, but after Matt Grace took over in the sixth, he gave up a leadoff single by Anthony Rizzo and a two-run home run to left by Willson Contreras that put the Cubs up 6-3.
“Jackson threw the ball pretty good except for the home runs,” Baker said after the loss.
“Well, he gave up one run and then Gracie gave up a two-run home run that was the difference in the ballgame.”
Jackson, who has played for 12 different teams, was asked if pitching in Chicago again had any particular meaning for him after he struggled in his two seasons with the Cubs after signing a 4-year/$52M deal following the 2012 campaign, and was eventually released.
“For me, it’s another team,” he said. “The objective is the same, to go out and give us a chance to win, I’m not trying to do anything more or anything less just because of the situation, I think those are the times when you kind of get hurt, when you’re trying to go out and do too much, playing to the situation, you have kind of take it as another start, but obviously you know it would be nice to come in here and pitch well, being that it’s a team you played with but I’ve got a lot of teams that I’ve played with that I’m going to pitch against.”