Despite a 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday, Jackson continues to demonstrate his ability as a starter by going deep into games without getting flustered.
Jackson allowed a solo homer to Jake Marisnick, and that very likely would have been the only run he would have given up if Michael Taylor and Andrew Stevenson had not miscommunicated on Jose Altuve’s triple in the fourth inning.
Jackson has been around so long and pitched for so many clubs that he was the starter when the Nationals nine-game win streak began against the Astros on Aug. 6, 2012. He turned out to be the hard luck loser Wednesday when he gave up only two runs over six innings.
HIs ERA is 2.93 with the Nats this season, and his record a respectable 4-3. With the loss of Joe Ross to Tommy John surgery, Jackson has turned out to be a major find for general manager Mike Rizzo as they seek their second division title in a row and third in the last four seasons.
“He threw a heck of a game,” said manager Dusty Baker. “He left 2-1 and really should’ve been just one run, the home run by Marisnick. He threw the ball well. And then the home run to (Max) Stassi and then the home run to (Alex) Bregman. That was kind of the ball game. We didn’t have a bunch of opportunities.”
The story was also more of Mike Fiers pitching well for the Astros and holding the Nats to one run on four hits over seven innings.
Jackson knew Fiers was going to be a formidable foe early when the right-hander struck out three Nats hitters in the first two frames.
“One of those pitchers’ duels to start out the game,” Jackson said. “That’s a tough lineup to pitch to. We kind of went back and forth, Fiers and myself. It was just one of those games where they tacked some on at the end. We got over a couple mistakes. But it’s baseball. We didn’t give in. (Today) we can come with (Stephen) Strasburg on the mound and have a chance to take the series.”
Even with seven regulars out, the Astros still boast the likes of George Springer, Bregman, Altuve and Josh Reddick. Marwin Gonzalez is hitting .305 after a 2-for-4 performance. Jackson had devised a pretty good game plan to try to slow them down.
“You have to mix it up and keep them off balance,” Jackson said. “It’s one of those lineups where they have a lot of guys who can hurt you with the long ball. They’re a young team. They’re aggressive. They’re ready to swing the bat. It’s just about execution, and you have to keep them off balance as much as you can.”
But the bottom line is Jackson has done more than just held his own with the Nats in his seven starts. It begs the question, will the Nats decide to offer Jackson a shot on the post season roster as a long reliever or spot starter?
For now, that’s too deep a look into the crystal ball for Jackson, who was mired in the minor leagues to start this season.
“I’m just going out one day at a time, one start at a time, trying to do my job which is to go out and eat innings and keep the team in the ballgame,” Jackson said. “That’s all I’m focused on right now. Playoff roster is playoff roster. That’s way too far in the future for me to focus on. I have a job to do, I have a task right now and that’s to eat innings and do what I’m here to do -- that’s to keep us in games and help the bullpen a little bit.”
The numbers don’t lie for Jackson: he has allowed two runs or less in five of his seven starts for the Nats. Just like Howie Kendrick on offense, Jackson could play an important role in the postseason plans for a Nats club looking to break through.