ST. LOUIS - Edwin Jackson has been very, very good at times this season.
Tonight was not one of those times.
The Nationals' righty went just 1 1/3 innings tonight, allowing nine runs (eight earned). He gave up six hits, walked four and got only one swing-and-miss all night, which is incredibly low for a power pitcher who usually has no problem missing bats.
Manager Davey Johnson tried to give Jackson a chance to pitch out of trouble and eat up innings, but it just wasn't happening. He had to come get his starter after he'd retired just three batters and registered four outs.
"I don't even want to talk about it," Johnson said with a laugh after the game.
This was the shortest start of the season for Jackson, who just didn't have it tonight.
"Just wasn't a good day for Edwin," Johnson said. "He just couldn't locate, and that was the problem. Just one of those days. ... When he came over the plate, he was usually behind, in those hitters counts. Good fastball hitters throughout that lineup."
Gio Gonzalez struggled early in his outing yesterday, allowing three runs in the first and getting into trouble in the second. But Johnson gave him a lengthy rope, and Gonzalez settled down and threw solid six innings. The Nationals' skipper gave Jackson the same chance to settle in, but he allowed five of the first six hitters he faced in the second inning to reach, bringing Johnson from the dugout.
After a start like this, it's fair to question what type of impact tonight's outing has on Jackson's positioning in the Nats' playoff rotation. But Johnson said he's going to look at the big picture and won't put much weight on this one.
"I just throw it out," Johnson said. "If he usually has trouble, it's early, and he couldn't right the ship. They're in kinda playoff mode. They're going to jump all over him. Getting behind, walking people, just gets them more fired up."
Johnson turned to his bench early, with it being a 9-1 game in the fifth inning. He ended up taking out every one of his starting position players except Danny Espinosa, who moved from second base to shortstop, giving his regulars a few innings of rest.
"I don't think they really needed it," Johnson said, "but we'll call that a rest day."
The kicker tonight is that this loss didn't hurt the Nationals nearly as much as it would have if the Braves had won. An Atlanta loss in New York still leaves the Nats able to lock up the NL East tomorrow with a win and a Braves loss.
"That was surprising. I was surprised," Johnson said of the Braves' loss to the Mets. "But we just turn the page on that one."