The Washington Nationals have had just one day off this season, and they wont have another one until April 23. That's a tough stretch to start a campaign. To make matters worse, the team had to take the Cincinnati Reds to extra innings in two consecutive nights leading into today's game in order to claim the victory. To say the least, the Nats needed a big effort from Edwin Jackson today to help ease the burden on their bullpen. What they got was a masterpiece.
Nine innings, 92 pitches. That's all it took for Jackson to systematically shut down the Reds lineup batters one through nine. The Nats' right-hander allowed one earned but only gave up two hits while striking out nine. To throw just 92 pitches in a complete game is one thing, but to do so while striking out nine batters is absolutely unheard of. It takes three strikes to earn a K, and throughout the whole game Jackson averaged just 3.06 pitches per hitter.
"It's especially good with the amount of pitches that I had," Jackson told Bill Ladson of MLB.com. "During the duration of the game, it's always a positive when you can go through the game and still be efficient with pitches. Normally, I would be well over 100 to do that."
While Edwin has been known to be an innings eater throughout his career, this is just his fifth all-time complete game. A lot of credit must be given to Washington's pitching coach Steve McCatty, who has worked hard this spring on perfecting Jackson's approach to the game. McCatty encourages all of his pitchers to attack batters in an attempt to keep pitch counts down. He had to have been proud this afternoon.
A few other notes from Saturday's win:
- Jesus Flores reached base each of the four times he came to the plate Saturday, earning three hits and a walk. If he can continue to produce, and stay healthy, he could be a serious force off the bench for the Nats this season. Very few teams have one catcher who can produce at the plate, none have two.
- This win helped the team earn their third consecutive series win, and was the Nationals' fifth win overall in a row.
-Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche, two of the biggest disappointments by far for Washington in 2011, continued to pace the team's offense early on this season. Both sluggers had two hits and a walk on the day, and both improved their batting average to .333 on the season. Personally, as happy as I am to see them both bounce back, I'd be shocked to see these to continue to produce at this level.
- Rick Ankiel made his 2012 debut today after starting the year on a rehab assignment. He went 0-4 on the day but hit the ball hard several times.
- After tonight's gem by Jackson. Each of the Nats starters have an ERA below 3.40.