The right-handed Jackson (8-9) struck out 10 hitters, allowed no earned runs, four hits, and lasted eight innings with a season-high 123 pitches, notching his eighth win of the season. It also marked his first win at home since July 4 and snapped a three-game skid at home.
“I wouldn’t have any problem letting him go to 130 pitches,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He had an extra day’s rest this time, too.”
How did we know Jackson was on Thursday?
He struck out the first two batters he faced in Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran, both looking. He struck out seven hitters in the first three innings.
The Cardinals’ only extra-base hit was pinch-hitter Bryan Anderson’s shot down the right-field line in the eighth that first baseman Adam LaRoche almost got a handle on.
Jackson has now struck out 29 hitters in his last 21 innings in three starts.
He was that down-the-stretch pitcher that became a difference-maker for the Cardinals during their run to the World Series title in 2011. Jackson went 5-2 with a 3.68 ERA for St. Louis in guiding them to the championship.
He could be that guy for the Nationals this season.
“They didn’t hit many balls hard,” Johnson said.
Johnson went to Jackson late and realized he did not need to pinch hit for him either. Jackson wanted this one.
“He knew he was going up against his old ballclub,” Johnson said. “He really wanted to pitch a good game and show them. It was great. Everybody could feel it and knew it.”
So, was Johnson thinking of pulling Jackson with such a big lead (8-0) after seven innings?
“Pretty easy call,” Johnson said. “I think he was at 105 pitches after seven. He had his shin guard on, his helmet and gloves on, three hitters before (he was due). It was very obvious what he wanted to do. He wanted to throw a shutout and a complete game.”
That did not happen, but the next best thing did for Jackson. The eight innings was the longest outing for him since a June 11 win at Toronto. He went eight innings against the Blue Jays that day, and won 6-3.
With the way Jackson pitches and the big games he has been involved in during his career, he is a guy you want out there. And against the Cardinals Thursday, he again proved his worth.
Jackson is only 28 years old, and is a week away (Sept. 9) from his birthday. He signed a one-year deal to come to the Nationals last offseason.
This might be a good time to lock him up for three or four years and see if you can get him set in D.C. through 2016.
Just like with Stephen Strasburg and the innings limit, you want a veteran pitcher like Jackson to hang around for the long haul, and make this more than a one-hit wonder.
Jackson proved Thursday once again what he is capable of when the Nats need him most.