Jackson, starters struggling to keep runs off the board

The Nationals' starting pitching has had trouble getting off to quick starts in this series.

Following Wednesday's 8-0 Game 3 win, the Cardinals have now scored nine runs in the second inning in three games and a total of 13 runs in the first four innings during the series.

In that same span, the Nationals have tallied a total of two runs.

Nationals starters have allowed 11 runs in 13 innings. The Cardinals' starters, by contrast, have gone 13 1/3 innings and surrendered a total of two runs, and that is with Jaime Garcia leaving with a shoulder injury after just two frames in Game 2.

If you add in Lance Lynn's three innings in relief of Garcia, the total balloons to 16 1/3 innings from the starters with only four runs scored by the Nats.

So after three games, with Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson having started, are the Nationals' front-line starters feeling the heat to throw zeroes?

"I don't consider the pressure of the situation (is) making (them throw) bad pitches," manager Davey Johnson said. "You just try to make your pitches and you don't try to give in to hitters."

Jackson was the first to admit he made it too easy for Pete Kozma, who hit a three-run shot in the second that gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead and set the tone.

"Through their lineup, any one of those guys can hurt you," Jackson said. "It just so happens, that ended up being a big hit."

"He just made bad pitches," Johnson said of his starting pitcher. "Jackson was missing early on trying to make pitches and then when he had to come in, he came right down broadway. They are experienced hitters that lay off the stuff way out of the zone and tomahawk the stuff in it. Even the shortstop, that was a cookie - middle half in, thigh high.

"He couldn't get the ball down early. That was a key for him. When he can throw a lot of quality strikes at the knees early in the game he usually throws a strong game. But he was up from the start and you can't do that against a good-hitting ballclub."

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said the offense has to help out the starters a bit, too. Nationals hitters have been unable to get big innings themselves, especially early in the game.

"(We need to) just come out tomorrow and hopefully put up a couple of early runs up and give our pitchers some leeway to go out there and attack their guys and not have so much pressure to be perfect pitches all the time," Zimmerman said.

Right fielder Jayson Werth said the Nationals have confidence in Game 4 starter Ross Detwiler, but will also pull out all the stops in Thursday's game. So much so that he believes Game 2 starter Jordan Zimmermann might be available to come out of the bullpen if necessary.

"Ross (Detwiler) has been dominant all year," Werth said. "He has been a dominant force for us. I like our pitching the way it is set up the rest of the way. I imagine we got Jordan in the bullpen tomorrow, too."

There is no guarantee that Zimmermann would be used, Johnson said, but it is possible.

The Nationals have used Tyler Clippard, Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez only once each in the series. Clippard hasn't been used since Game 1.

You would expect Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus, who have both pitched in all three games, might not be called on to pitch.

But it is a potential elimination game.

When Stammen was asked if he would be available in Game 4, he said, "Yeah, bring it on. That is what I am here for."

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