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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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Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for the third no-hitter of his big league career ended with one out in the eighth inning, and he then gave up two unearned runs as the Miami Marlins rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 Wednesday.

After backup catcher A.J. Ellis reached on an infield single for Miami's first hit, an error by first baseman Adam Lind and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs. Scherzer threw a wild pitch that scored the tying run, and Giancarlo Stanton lined an RBI single -- the Marlins' only other hit -- to put them ahead.

Scherzer (8-5) threw no-hitters against the Pirates and Mets in 2015, and he seemed on his way to another when he began the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead.

He retired 18 in a row before Ellis hit a chopper that bounced in front of the plate and glanced off the tip of Scherzer's glove as he reached overhead for it. The ball rolled to shortstop Trea Turner, who failed in his attempt to make a barehanded pickup and rush a throw.

MORE NATS: 12-3 win over Marlins Tuesday

Official scorer Ron Jernick immediately ruled the play a hit, and Scherzer knew it. He picked up the ball and angrily flung it to the dugout -- not as a souvenir.

Washington totaled five hits against Dan Straily and three relievers. Kyle Barraclough (3-1) pitched the eighth, and A.J. Ramos worked around a two-out single in the ninth for his 10th save.

Scherzer threw a season-high 121 pitches and had 11 strikeouts, reaching double figures for the sixth game in a row, the team's longest such streak such the franchise moved to Washington for the 2005 season.

He lowered his ERA to 2.08, best in the NL. He also leads the league with 145 strikeouts.

The other no-hitter in the majors this year was achieved on the same mound by Miami's Edinson Volquez against Arizona on June 3.

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The crowd of 22,659 for the 12:10 p.m. start included thousands of youngsters on camp day, and they gave the game a scream-filled soundtrack.

The score was 0-0 until Washington's Ryan Raburn hit his first homer of the year in the fifth. Raburn was a late replacement for outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who was scratched because he wasn't feeling well.

That was the only run allowed by Straily, who went six innings.

Scherzer walked Christian Yelich with two out in the first and hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch with one out in the second. That was Miami's last baserunner until the eighth.

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The Nats got hot Tuesday in Miami with 12-3 win over Marlins

The Nats got hot Tuesday in Miami with 12-3 win over Marlins

Gio Gonzalez had some worrisome moments on the mound Tuesday night, including when a friend sitting in the first row behind the Washington Nationals' dugout was hit in the head by a flying bat.

"Next time in the front row everyone will be wearing a helmet," Gonzalez said.

The friend later said he was fine, and Gonzalez felt good too after pitching seven innings to beat the Miami Marlins 12-3.

Gonzalez (7-1) allowed three runs, including two on Marcell Ozuna's 19th homer , but struck out eight and won his fourth consecutive decision.

"Exactly what we needed," manager Dusty Baker said. "Gio's throwing the ball great."

He had plenty of support even before a five-run ninth. Bryce Harper started the scoring with a two-run single that extended his hitting streak to 13 games, and Daniel Murphy had two RBIs and hit his 12th homer . Stephen Drew had three hits and three RBIs, while Ryan Zimmerman drove in three runs with a double and a single.

Gonzalez, who grew up in nearby Hialeah, improved to 7-3 in 13 starts against his hometown team with an ERA of 2.19. He had a cluster of friends and relatives in attendance, and that's where Justin Bour's bat went when it slipped from his hands on a swing in the fifth inning.

"It's good to have friends here, but put them somewhere safe," Gonzalez said.

He said his pal who was hit received a souvenir later as compensation for being clubbed.

"Bour gave him a bat, which is pretty cool on his part, because we want the fans to come back," Gonzalez said.

The left-hander said it was too early to talk about the possibility of pitching in the All-Star game, which will be played in his hometown next month. His teammates are rooting for it.

"Gio has been great," Harper said. "I'm hoping he pitches like this the rest of the first half and gets the start here. It would be incredible to see."

The NL East leaders went 7 for 14 with runners in scoring position, but it was still 0-0 when Edinson Volquez (3-8) walked Michael A. Taylor and Trea Turner in the third inning, and they advanced on a double steal.

With two outs, Harper tried to bunt on the first pitch -- a curious move by the slugger -- and pushed it foul. He golfed the next pitch into center for the Nationals' first hit to put them up 2-0.

"I don't hit Volquez very well," Harper said. "If I can lay a bunt down with a guy at third and get a knock and score a run ... but it worked out."

Pitching to Harper backfired for Miami, so the next time he came to bat, when the Nationals again had a runner in scoring position, Marlins manager Don Mattingly opted for an intentional walk. Zimmerman foiled the strategy with a two-run double.

"They've got a good lineup," Mattingly said. "They put you in a box in a number of ways."

Volquez allowed a season-high six runs in 4 2/3 innings.

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