If Jackson is No. 4, then Nationals might have four No. 1 starters

Edwin Jackson didn't have his best stuff Saturday night, but the stuff he had was good enough to hold the Orioles hitless for 4 1/3 innings as the Nationals evened the series following a 3-1 victory before 46,298 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"It was one of those days when you don't have blow-away stuff," Jackson said. "You just have to just go out and pitch. That is pretty much what it was from the time I started throwing the 'pen. I knew what kind of day it was going to be. It is not my first time I have been through it, so you kind of know how to handle the situation."

Jackson finished 6 1/3 innings, with one walk and five strikeouts, scattering four hits and allowing a solo homer by Adam Jones.

Manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty could sense this wasn't the normally dominant Jackson outing, yet he set down the first 12 Orioles hitters.

"You could tell," Johnson said of Jackson's early velocity. "Normally he throws a little harder than that. He started the game throwing 89 to 90 mph. I think he touched 94 mph. He usually throws harder than that. But he stayed there. Even Cat said, 'What's wrong with him?' I said, 'There is nothing wrong with him, they ain't got a hit yet!' "

With the quality performance, Jackson's ERA plummeted to 2.91, which makes him the fourth Nationals starter with an ERA below 3.00 through the first 69 games. Stephen Strasburg (2.46), Gio Gonzalez (2.55), Jordan Zimmermann (2.89) and Jackson have combined to win 25 games. Returning to the fifth starter spot Sunday, Ross Detwiler has put together a 1.59 ERA in five appearances so far in June, throwing 11 1/3 innings.

With Jackson rolling so well in picking up his fourth win of the season (4-4), closer Tyler Clippard said it is kind of hard to think of him as the fourth starter on this team.

"That's insane," Clippard said as he shook his head. "It makes us smile as a team. Looking around this clubhouse, I think I said it in Toronto, I can't imagine what those other teams are thinking, knowing that Edwin is our fourth guy. It is a joke. He is probably a No. 1 starter on more than half the teams in the league. It has been a lot of fun to be a part of."

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