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Jackson quietly gets job done for Nats

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Jackson quietly gets job done for Nats

He's the forgotten man of the best rotation in baseball, even though he's the highest-paid member of the group and has enjoyed the most success in the big leagues.

While Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez battle each other for the league lead in strikeouts and a possible start in next month's All-Star Game, and while Jordan Zimmermann churns out quality start after quality start, and while everyone questions whether Chien-Ming Wang or Ross Detwiler should be the Nationals' No. 5 starter, Edwin Jackson just seems to quietly take the mound every fifth night and do his job.

"The silent assassin," teammate Michael Morse described him last week.

Thing is, if you put together a list of the best outings by Nationals starters this season, Jackson would find himself right in the thick of things.

Indeed, his eight-plus-inning gem last night in Toronto was only the latest stellar start of the season for Jackson. It was the third time this year he's completed at least eight innings. No one else in the rotation has thrown even one pitch in the eighth inning yet.

It was Jackson's eighth quality start in 12 tries, his fifth straight. And it left the right-hander with a 3.02 ERA, the 18th-best mark in the National League.

Those are the kind of stats you'd expect from your No. 1 starter, No. 2 at worst. Jackson, of course, is the Nationals' No. 4 starter, making his performance all the more impressive but also all the more easy to overlook.

It shouldn't be overlooked, though. Jackson has been an invaluable addition to the Nationals' staff this season, perhaps a bit of a surprise for those who questioned GM Mike Rizzo's decision to hand the 28-year-old 11 million on Feb. 1 when there already appeared to be a logjam in his rotation.

Whether Jackson ultimately was worth the money can still be the subject of debate. His contributions to the club, however, have been obvious.

At a time where team officials are being extra cautious with their young starters and not wanting to push Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Detwiler too far too soon, Jackson has been the workhorse. His average of 6.72 innings per start leads the staff by leaps and bounds.

Has Jackson been a tad inconsistent and put forth a few clunkers of starts? Yes, but he's been pretty darn good for the last month, posting a 2.21 ERA over his last five starts.

His 3-3 record also makes his overall performance look pedestrian, but that's a result not of his poor pitching but of his teammates' poor support. The Nationals have been held to one run in four of Jackson's 12 starts this season.

Last night, they finally exploded for six runs, giving Jackson a chance to breathe and a chance to pitch deep into the Toronto night. Manager Davey Johnson let him take the mound for the bottom of the ninth, though a quick double dashed any hope of a complete game.

No matter, because the Nationals hung on to win and Jackson was the recipient of plenty of high-fives and congratulatory remarks afterward.

They congratulated him for a fine job on this night. Really, though, they could have been congratulating him for a fine job all season.

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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others