It didn't matter that Edwin Jackson was facing a Cardinals team which came into tonight leading the National League in batting average and runs scored.
It made no difference that he was taking on a St. Louis lineup which had six batters hitting at least .300 and three guys in the top 10 in the NL in batting.
Jackson couldn't be stopped. He spun eight sterling innings tonight, allowing just one unearned run and striking out 10. If not for his high pitch count - Jackson's night ended with the righty having thrown 123 pitches - he could have easily gone for his second complete game of the season.
"Well that was a gem," manager Davey Johnson said. "I mean, good-hitting ballclub, and he had electric stuff. I know he would've liked to have finished it. Tried to give him that chance, but wasn't going to let him throw too many pitches. But great effort.
"He was throwing hard. Good breaking ball. They didn't hit many balls hard. The only negative in the ballgame, when I've got a guy pitching that good a ballgame, if he's got a couple runners on at the end of it, I had to hook him. I had to get my best foot forward, so I was getting (Drew) Storen up just to save any earned runs on his effort. I don't think I hurt Storen. But I don't like to do that."
Jackson was at 105 pitches through seven innings, a point in which some managers might opt to turn to their bullpen. But Jackson didn't wait for Johnson's call on whether he was being allowed to stay in or not. He came into the dugout after the top of the seventh and immediately started preparing for his at-bat in the bottom half.
"He had his shin guard on and his helmet and his gloves on three hitters before," Johnson said with a smile. "So it was very obvious what he wanted to do. He wanted to throw a shutout and a complete game."
He didn't go the full nine, but Jackson did enough. It probably didn't hurt that he was facing his former team tonight, a club with which he won a World Series last season.
"I think he knew he was going up against his old ballclub and he wanted to pitch a good game," Johnson said. "Show 'em. I think it was great. Everybody could feel it and knew it."
Jackson now has struck out 29 hitters over his last three outings (21 innings) with just five walks in that span. Not too shabby.
Bryce Harper, meanwhile, had his third homer in the last two days and added three more RBIs tonight. He put together five strong at-bats and seems to be coming around after a lengthy slump over the last couple months.
"He's all-in, all the time," Johnson said. "But he's gotten a little calmer in his lower half. He kind of can get real aggressive with his lower half, and he's calmed down quite a bit. That's where you get antsy and that doesn't help your swing."
The Nationals snapping their five-game losing streak last night was big. But following it right up with another win was an important step, and doing it in dominating fashion over a strong team didn't hurt matters. The offense, after a brief lull, is back.
"Obviously they've got the best offense in the league, and they're going to have to hit against a pretty good pitching staff," Johnson said. "They score a lot of runs. We went through about a week of offensive doldrums, but see the game yesterday and the game today, it was great. Great just for the way you feel about yourself offensively."