Nationals right-hander Edwin Jackson was fresh off a spectacular complete game two-hitter Saturday over the Reds, 4-1. Jackson was taxed for only 92 pitches, striking out nine and walking one. Cincinnati managed one runner past second base the entire game.
But it was a whole different story Thursday. Facing a Houston team that had scored five runs in three games of the series against the Nationals, the Astros set a franchise record with three triples in a five-run first inning to stun Jackson and the Nationals, staking to a 5-0 lead.
After striking out Jordan Schafer to begin the game, Jackson allowed a triple, single, single, triple, triple and single.
Manager Davey Johnson said an inning like that might have been more likely after the gem Jackson showed in his last start.
"Coming off the complete game, I'd expect any club to hit around on him in the first inning," Johnson said. "That is what they did. Basically, he was throwing alright but his location was pretty much down the middle."
Johnson didn't know if Jackson was sick in that first frame. But despite the offensive explosion by Houston, he stayed with his starter, and the World Series winner settled down, allowing only one hit the next four innings.
"First inning, I thought maybe he was a little bit under the weather," Johnson said. "Then he turned it up a notch and he was unhittable the rest of the way. He was throwing around 91 and 92 mph in the first inning and the next thing I saw he is popping at 94 mph. He also was making better pitches and hitting better spots."
The Nationals had rallied to 5-4 through five, but the door was sealed on this game when Tom Gorzelanny surrendered five runs himself in a tumultuous sixth. Houston eventually won going away, 11-4.
"The lineup set up good for my rested long man," Johnson said. "(Then), Gorzo has the same problem in his first inning. It was just one of those days."
But Jackson said it was not a total meltdown, just a couple of pitches he would love to have back.
"First inning was just a matter of making a couple of pitches," Jackson explained. "I put myself in some good positions to make pitches to get out (of the inning). I just didn't execute them. I felt like I was throwing strikes for most part of the game. I wasn't erratic. I felt good. I was around the strike zone. I left a few balls up in positions that I had a chance to put people away and I didn't.
Jackson said it was nice to see the team rally to make it a ball game, and he loses no confidence from a rough opening inning.
"We continue to fight and we fell short today," Jackson said. "It is just one of those things where you have days like this. I would change a few pitches and that's about it. For the most part, the way I felt and the way I prepared, I wouldn't change anything."
The loss was Jackson's first of the season and his first ever against the Astros in five career starts.