Game 59: Nationals 6, Blue Jays 3


In a game that promised a tight pitcher’s duel between the Washington Nationals’ Edwin Jackson and Toronto Blue Jays’ ace Brandon Morrow, Jackson delivered tossing 8 innings of 3-hit ball as the Nationals defeated the Jays, 6-3, Washington’s fourth consecutive road win.

Jackson shined for the Nationals, allowing just one earned run (Colby Rasmus‘s first inning home run), three hits, three walks, and three strikeouts in his eight excellent innings. Jackson’s 108-pitch gem evened his record to 3-3 and helped save the Nats’ bullpen for the 11 games remaining against the daunting American League East.

Only a rare Sean Burnett slip-up — he surrendered a two-run home run to pinch hitter Yan Gomes with two outs in the ninth — prevented Jackson from finishing the game with an ERA below 3.00. Gomes homer scored Edwin Encarnacion, who doubled leading off the ninth against Jackson. The inherited run Burnett allowed bumped Jackson ERA to a still impressive 3.02.

For Toronto, Morrow exited the game after nine pitches with an oblique strain, forcing manager John Farrell to patch together nine innings from his struggling bullpen.

The lot of relievers failed to resemble Morrow’s brilliance as the Nationals scored 6 runs on 14 hits, despite going 4-18 with runners in scoring position and Bryce Harper making the rookie mistake of challenging Blue Jays’ star Jose Bautista‘s throwing arm. Ironically, since the Nats’ first run was scored against Morrow and Washington never trailed, the Jays young star was the game’s losing pitcher.

On offense, the Nats gave Jackson plenty of support, led by Adam LaRoche‘s upper deck two-run blast in the third and late RBI hits by Ian Desmond (bases loaded single with 2 outs in the seventh) and Rick Ankiel‘s solo home run leading off the eighth.

LaRoche, Stephen Lombardozzi and Harper provided seven of the Nationals 14 hits and Michael Morse and Harper chipped in with an RBI apiece as well. Only a “learning experience” at bat where Toronto’s veteran reliever Francisco Cordero recovered from a 3-0 count to strike out Harper on three consecutive change-ups, prevented the Nationals’ wondrous rookie from a perfect night at the plate. Harper went 3-4, stole a base, and scored two runs, raising his batting average to .295 and his OPS to near 1.000.

Tonight’s victory improved the Nationals’ record to 36-23, a season best 13 games above .500. With Atlanta’s loss to the Yankees, Washington’s first place lead is now three games.

Champ of the Game: Jackson, who continues to both eat innings and pitch brilliantly. He gave Washington everything they needed and more.

For Toronto, Bautista went 0-2 with two walks, but made two great defensive plays and nearly nailed Lombardozzi at the plate in the first inning.

Chump of the Game: No one really deserves this title for the Nationals, but, if someone must be named, Xavier Nady grounded into a double play to kill a budding sixth inning Washington rally.

The worse news is that Nady was in the game only because Roger Bernadina, the hero of Sunday’s game in Boston, strained a hamstring advancing two bases on a passed ball.

For Toronto, relievers Chad Beck and Luis Perez, pressed into unexpected service when Morrow exited, allowed four runs, nine hits, and two walks in six innings.

Next Game: Tuesday, June 12, 7:07 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Chien-Ming Wang (1-1, 5.11) tries to recover from his last shaky outing against the Blue Jays’ Henderson Alvarez (3-5, 3.76).