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Jackson's gem kicks off homestand

Jackson's gem kicks off homestand

As the rest of the sporting world worries about Stephen Strasburg's impending shutdown and the supposedly crushing effect it will have on the Nationals' championship aspirations, other members of the majors' best rotation simply takes the mound and does their part to carry this team to new heights.

The national discussion about the Nationals' rotation has been focused on Strasburg, with perhaps a little bit of love sprinkled in for Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. All the while, Edwin Jackson has quietly gone about his business, churning out innings and getting stronger and more effective as the regular season reaches its final month.

"People keep talking about Stras. You know, Edwin Jackson is a heck of a pitcher," Jayson Werth said following Thursday night's 8-1 triumph over the Cardinals. "He's a big-game pitcher. He won big games last year, late in the year, in the postseason. Take Stras out and put Edwin in. I like it."

What's not to like? With eight dominant innings Thursday night against the NL's most productive lineup, Jackson continued his late-August surge and carried the Nationals to a rousing victory in the opener of an 11-game homestand.

The man who has occupied the No. 4 slot in the Nationals' rotation all season -- and will be bumped up to No. 3 once Strasburg is shut down in the next week or two -- now sports a 2.79 ERA over his last eight starts and has struck out at least eight batters in five of those outings.

This latest start rivaled any Jackson has made this season. He allowed only four hits, struck out 10 and didn't let a St. Louis player get past second base until his eighth and final inning of work.

"That was a gem," manager Davey Johnson said. "I mean, good-hitting ballclub, and he had electric stuff."

Facing many of his teammates from last year's World Series championship roster, Jackson took advantage of his familiarity with St. Louis' lineup and made some talented hitters look downright foolish flailing away at his diverse repertoire.

"I think it helped, yeah," catcher Jesus Flores said. "He had a lot of confidence in what he was doing out there. We really talked about every hitter before the game, and he executed everything he said."

Jackson downplayed the ex-teammate angle.

"They know me. I know them," he said. "At the end of the day, I always say it's a matter of going out and executing. And when you get run support like I did tonight, it definitely doesn't hurt if you want to go out and execute with a lead."

Run support has been something of a foreign concept to Jackson this season. In his nine losses, the Nationals have scored a total of 14 runs. So imagine the right-hander's delight when his teammates exploded for eight runs off Cardinals pitching Thursday night.

The offensive attack was consistent throughout the evening, but it was ignited by the first two Nationals who stepped to the plate. Jayson Werth led off the bottom of the first by drawing a five-pitch walk, then Bryce Harper turned on a 2-0 meatball from Jaime Garcia and sent it flying into the right-field bullpen for his third homer in 24 hours.

That was merely the beginning of a big night for the Nationals' 1-2 hitters. Combined, Werth and Harper produced four hits (two of them homers), a walk, five RBI and four runs scored.

Add in their performances Wednesday night in Miami, and the Werth-Harper combo is now 8 for their last 19 with four homers, nine RBI and seven runs scored.

"I love hitting behind him," Harper said. "Like I said before, he sets the tone early and he really fires me up and gets me going. Having him hit in front of us really sets the tone for everybody."

Werth's return from a broken wrist at the start of the month has been nothing short of remarkable: In 25 games, he's hitting .337 with a .408 on-base percentage and .478 slugging percentage.

That latter number was boosted Thursday night when the veteran outfielder connected for his first home run since suffering the injury, a towering blast over the left-field bullpen to lead off the fifth inning.

Having been through major wrist injuries earlier in his career, Werth admittedly had some concern about his ability to regain a power stroke once he returned from this DL stint. Early in the rehab process, though, he made the decision to switch to a lighter bat, dropping 1 12 ounces, and the difference has been noticeable.

"Immobilized for that long, you lose a lot of strength," he said. "And I still feel like I haven't gained it all back yet. I went to the lighter bat, but my swing's been good since coming off the rehab and I like where I'm at. You know, it's not always about hitting homers. I think those will come. That's just a matter of being in good position and getting a good pitch."

Whatever Werth is doing right now, it's working. And it's making a significant difference for a Nationals lineup that -- when healthy -- boasts seven players capable of hitting at least 20 homers over a big-league season.

That kind of top-to-bottom production only makes the task easier for a pitching staff that on Thursday shut down the NL's statistically best lineup.

"Obviously they've got the best offense in the league," Johnson said. "But they're going to have to hit against a pretty good pitching staff."

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Elderly woman hospitalized after being struck by Daniel Murphy foul ball

Elderly woman hospitalized after being struck by Daniel Murphy foul ball

CLEVELAND — A 75-year-old woman was taken to a hospital Tuesday night after being hit in the face with a foul ball by Washington's Daniel Murphy.

Muir West was sitting down the right-field line — and may have been blinded by the sun — when she was struck by the hard shot from Murphy in the first inning of the Indians' game at Progressive Field. Fans sitting in her section immediately called for security and medical personnel, who rushed to aid her.

A family member said West's glasses were broken in the mishap and she received a cut on her face.

Her wound was heavily bandaged before she was placed on a stretcher and taken to MetroHealth Hospital. As she was carried up the steps, fans gave her a warm ovation.

Major League Baseball added more netting this season near home plate to protect fans from foul balls and bats flying into the stands.

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GIF: Trea Turner makes tough catch in 1st inning as Nats center fielder

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GIF: Trea Turner makes tough catch in 1st inning as Nats center fielder

It didn't take long for Trea Turner to get a good test at his new position in center field.

In the first inning against the Indians on Tuesday, Turner had two balls hit his way. One resulted in a ground rule double, the other found Turner's glove on a difficult grab at the wall.

Turner caught the third out at the warning track on a flyball by Jose Ramirez. The Nats' rookie reached out on a full sprint and reeled it in right just a few steps before the wall in right-center.

Check it out:

The catch was an impressive one to watch for a guy who is just learning a new position. But the details revealed by StatCast show exactly how good of a play it was.

Turner registered a 97.8% efficiency score and covered over 112 feet. That's exceptional.

Turner may have his growing pains in center field, but he's certainly off to a good start.

[RELATED: Former Nats 1st rd. pick set to make MLB debut with Mets]

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Nats shuffle lineup with Trea Turner starting in center field vs. Indians

Nats shuffle lineup with Trea Turner starting in center field vs. Indians

Nationals (58-41) vs. Indians (56-41) at Progressive Field

The Nationals are beginning their road trip in Cleveland on Tuesday night with several notable changes to their lineup, just in time for a big interleague series against the first-place Indians.

In center field for the first time will be Trea Turner, who remains in the lineup despite Ryan Zimmerman coming off the disabled list. Turner has six games of experience playing outfield in the minor leagues, but has never done so in the majors. Turner spoke on Sunday about how he feels ready for the challenge of playing center field.

Bryce Harper is back in the starting lineup, but is now hitting second. And Ben Revere is in at left field with Jayson Werth serving as the designated hitter.

The pitching matchup is a good one with Gio Gonzalez (6-8, 4.53) set to square off against Danny Salazar (11-3, 2.75). Gonzalez is hoping to build off his strong outing of six innings and one run allowed in his last start. 

First pitch: 7:10 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzaez vs. Indians - Danny Salazar

NATS

CF Trea Turner
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
C Wilson Ramos
DH Jayson Werth
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
LF Ben Revere
(LHP Gio Gonzalez)

INDIANS

TBA
RHP Danny Salazar