Edwin Jackson did not feel any relief in the first inning yesterday, but those watching him may have. After two consecutive starts in which his fastball hovered between 89 and 91 miles per hour, about four ticks slower than he usual throws, Jackson’s velocity returned. He hit 93 with his fourth pitch, and later in the first he threw two straight 95-mph fastballs.
The problem was, Pablo Sandoval crushed one of those fastballs, on a 1-2 pitch, into the seats over the scoreboard in right-center. Jackson’s first inning struggles had continued. In his last start, Jackson had allowed five runs in the first. Now he had allowed three more, and his first-inning ERA for the season ballooned to 9.56. He has allowed 17 earned runs in 16 first innings this year, and 21 earned runs in 85 2/3 other innings.
“Some of it can be just hitting the ball,” Jackson said. “Some of it just not hitting spots. It’s been a little bit of everything. It hasn’t been one particular thing. There’s been games where I hit my spots and still give up runs in the first inning. Been games when it’s a matter of one pitch. Just coming out and being aggressive from the start.”
Before the clock struck noon, Jackson had fallen behind. But he gathered himself and quickly found a rhythm. Jackson faced one batter over the minimum for the next four innings, holding down the Giants as his offense scored seven runs off Madison Bumgarner.
“He made adjustments,” catcher Jhonatan Solano said. “He tried to be too perfect in the first inning. He stuck with it. He tried to forget the first inning. Second inning, forget about it, start over.”
More encouraging, his best stuff came back. His two-seam fastball stayed around 92 most of the day, and touched 95 into his sixth and final inning.
“That was more like Edwin,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He had much better fastball than the last two times out. He pretty much looked like the old Edwin. He threw the ball real good.”
Jackson still described his outing as “subpar.” Jackson left the game with two outs in the sixth, after Sandoval whacked a two-out, RBI double to make it 7-4. Before Jackson and a chance to put the tying run on base and endanger his chance to win, Johnson pulled Jackson after 98 pitches for Tom Gorzelanny.
“I just have to do a better job of coming in and getting in a rhythm and not being so mechanical and just getting the ball and going to the glove,” Jackson said. “I caught myself getting out of sync for being too mechanical, being like a robot instead of getting the ball and staying free, nice and easy and loose.”
Jackson’s best moment almost came at the plate. In the fourth inning, after Solano homered, Jackson lifted the first pitch Bumgarner threw him to deep left field. The ball carried until died at the warning track.
“Gotta hit the weight room,” Jackson said. “Gotta hit the weight room a little bit.”
FROM THE POST
Boz writes that the Nationals have the best team in the National League.
The Nationals’ offense stayed hot in a 9-4 win over the Giants, James Wagner writes.
Jhonatan Solano’s home run keyed the Nationals’ initial comeback, Matt Breen writes.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 5, Buffalo 0: Zach Duke allowed no runs in six innings on four hits and five walks, striking out five. Jim Negrych went 2 for 3 with a home run and a walk. Brett Carroll went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk. Christian Garcia threw a scoreless ninth inning for the save. In 31 innings between Syracuse and Harrisburg, Garcia has allowed four earned runs.
Harrisburg 7, Bowie 6: Sandy Leon went 2 for 4. Jeff Kobernus went 1 for 4 with a double and a walk. Danny Rosenbaum allowed five runs in six innings on five hits and three walks, striking out three.
Frederick 6, Potomac 4: Adrian Sanchez went 3 for 5 with a triple. Stephen King went 3 for 4 with a double. Nathan Karns allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings on six hits and a walk, striking out seven. Potomac scored three runs in four innings against super-prospect Dylan Bundy.
Hagerstown 3, Lexington 2: Alex Meyer allowed no runs in two innings on two hits and no walks, striking out three. (Meyer likely threw only two innings in order to prepare for the Futures Game on Sunday.) Matt Skole went 2 for 4 with a home run, his 19th this season.
Auburn 11, Lowell 5: Carlos Alvarez went 2 for 4 with a walk. Wander Ramos went 2 for 4 with a triple. Shawn Pleffner went 3 for 5 with a double. Bryan Harper allowed no runs in 1 2/3 innings on one hit and three walks, striking out one. Pedro Encarnacion allowed no earned runs in six innings on two hits and two walks, striking out seven.