WASHINGTON – Edwin Jackson is the one person in the Nationals starting rotation with postseason experience, and the Nats will lean heavily on that experience Wednesday in Game 3 of their National League Division Series with the Cardinals.
After shaky starts by both Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in games 1 and 2, the Nats need the right-handed veteran to come up big with the series tied at a game apiece.
Jackson pitched in four playoff games for the Cardinals last season on their way to a World Series championship. What he brings to the table for a pitching staff that was very good throughout the entire season, but still young when it comes to pitching in this kind of pressure, is invaluable.
“Our starting staff is still relatively young and for him to talk to them and give them advice day in and day out on how to be ready every fifth day has really helped them during the regular season,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
“So, for him (Jackson) to have that experience and go out there in a pivotal game in this series is going to be great for us.”
Jackson was the last starter to earn double-digit wins for the Nats, winning his last start on the final day of the regular season in a 5-1 defeat of the Phillies. He went 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on six hits. He finished the season 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA.
In a tied series, he knows how important this start is.
“I feel like being the only one in the rotation with playoff experience, there are high expectations,” Jackson said. “I have high expectations for myself as well. This is one of those games where you go out and you try to lead by example.”
Jackson will take the hill having not pitched in a week and will also go in knowing his last start against the Cardinals in St. Louis was one he’d like to forget. He gave up nine runs and six hits in 1 1/3 innings during a 12-2 shellacking.
“At this point of the season you are focused on one thing and that is going out and having success in a game,” he said. “You aren’t really thinking about how many days or how long you’ve had off. At this point, it’s really all or nothing and worrying about days off is the last thing that’s on my mind.”
After seeing both Gonzalez and Zimmermann struggle in their first-ever postseason starts, Nats manager Davey Johnson remembered what Jackson did last year in the playoffs for the Cardinals and he is happy to hand him the ball Wednesday.
“I saw him pitch two or three games late in the season and he has a great arm and great stuff, great competitor” Johnson said. “He’s going to help us eat up some innings for us and he did that this year. He’s been outstanding all year long and pitched exceptionally well. It’s good to have him here and it’s good to have his experience going in Game 3.
“I think a little bit of our inexperience showed up in a couple of areas. I think the pitching, the pitching has been our strength all year and we really didn’t get too good of outings the first two games and that’s not our trademark. But, I’m certainly looking forward to Jackson and Detwiler because they are certainly capable of pitching good ballgames.”
Jackson will have his work cut out for himself. He faces Chris Carpenter, who has a 9-2 record in postseason play with a 3.05 ERA. He was 4-0 for the Cardinals in the playoffs last year during their run to the World Series title.
Carpenter has seen the Nationals take their cue from Jackson and skipper Johnson in leading the team to baseball’s best record.
“They have a group of good guys over there that compete hard and compete the way you’re supposed to compete,” said Carpenter.
“There’s no BS, they just come to the park everyday to play. That’s a reflection of their manager who has been around a long time and done a lot of great things and the veteran guys who are leading these young kids. They have a lot of talent.”
In the biggest game of the year for the Nationals, it’s fitting the veteran will be counted on to try and give the Nats the series lead.