VIERA, Fla. - Edwin Jackson doesn't know what allowed him to get into such a groove today. He can't quite put his finger on it.
But whatever was working this afternoon, the Nationals hope they see a lot more out of it from the 28-year-old starter.
Jackson only faced one batter over the minimum in his four scoreless innings of work in this afternoon's 8-0 win over the Astros, striking out three and walking none. He popped the mitt with his fastball, worked in his slider, and found a good feel of his changeup.
"When you're going good, you really don't know what it is," Jackson said. "Something just clicked, and whatever mechanics I had, I was just able to repeat them and throw pitches across the plate.
"I was able to go out and find a rhythm early. That's what I've been trying to do this spring, find something that works, something that feels comfortable. I was able to do that today."
After Jackson's first Grapefruit League start, in which he allowed one hit and two walks in two innings, he told reporters that he was focusing on his mechanics, which he worked on early in spring in order to avoid tipping his pitches.
Pitching coach Steve McCatty told Jackson to put an end to that thinking. McCatty doesn't want the righty's head to be filled with all the mechanical "garbage" that can sometimes cause a pitcher to over-think while on the mound.
"Cat's been telling him, 'Just go relax, do what feels comfortable,' " manager Davey Johnson said. "I liked everything I saw. Edwin Jackson was superb. You can quit writing about his mechanics and all that B.S. He was as good as it gets right there. Everything about him."
Johnson said Jackson adjusted his wind-up today, raising his hands a bit and putting both feet on the rubber before getting his sign (in his last outing, he just had one foot on the rubber).
He retired the first six Astros hitters he faced, including strikeouts of first baseman Carlos Lee (on a nasty slider) and left fielder Fernando Martinez to start the second inning. Jackson gave up back-to-back singles to start the third, but got second baseman Diory Hernandez to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to help get out of the jam.
The fourth inning was a breeze for Jackson, as he ended his day by retiring Houston's 2-4 hitters in order.
"(The goal) today was go out, stay loose, stay relaxed and whatever you do, just go with it," Jackson said. "See the pitch and throw the ball to the glove. That's pretty much the approach you have to take sometimes. Free-minded, not thinking about anything, just throw it to the glove.
"It was definitely more comfortable today than the first time. Is it 100 percent where I want to be? I'm not sure. If I just continue to do what I did today, and just continue to repeat the same mechanics, once it gets comfortable you do it automatically. It'll come second nature. Just go out and continue to do the same thing.
Dan Kolko was named MASNsports.com's Nationals beat writer after spending the last four years covering the Baltimore Ravens for MASN and also serving as the Web site's deputy managing editor. A University of Delaware graduate originally from Silver Spring, Md., Dan grew up a die-hard baseball fan and is thrilled for the opportunity to cover the Nationals. Before joining MASN, Dan worked in production at Comcast SportsNet in Bethesda, Md., and also interned at the "George Michael Sports Machine" in Washington, D.C.
Follow Dan Kolko on Twitter: @DanKolko