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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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John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

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USA TODAY Sports

John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

ST. LOUIS -- Even John Gant cracked a smile.

Gant homered for his first major league hit and pitched one-run ball into the sixth inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Tuesday night for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.

Kolten Wong had three hits and three RBIs as St. Louis (65-55) pulled within four games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and moved within one game of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second NL wild card. The Cardinals also improved to 18-9 since Mike Shildt was named interim manager on July 13, the most wins for a manager through his first 27 games in franchise history.

"Things are starting to click for us," Wong said. "We're playing confident. We're out there playing aggressive and I think it's the kind of baseball Cardinals fans have been waiting for."

The Nationals (60-60) have dropped six of eight to fall eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

"We've just got to keep pulling the same rope, keep grinding it out, keep trying to win ballgames," Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said.

Gant (5-4) permitted four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. He has given up just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings in his last two starts, both wins.

The 26-year-old Gant was 0 for 30 for his career when he drove a 1-1 pitch from Gio Gonzalez (7-9) over the wall in left in the second. The two-run shot gave Washington a 3-0 lead.

"I was jogging kind of my hands in the air," said Wong, who scored on Gant's homer. "I already knew it was going out. Looking back I think he almost caught me."

Added Gant, "I thought it was going to hit the wall maybe but when I finally looked up and (Wong) was looking back at me, that's when I knew it was going over the wall."

Gant, who has a reputation for being a stoic player, admitted to smiling "once or twice" once he got back to the dugout.

Wong's solo homer made it 6-1 in the sixth, but Washington responded with three in the eighth. Harper hit a two-run shot, and Daniel Murphy singled in Anthony Rendon.

Matt Adams then struck out looking against Dakota Hudson, ending the inning, and Jordan Hicks worked the ninth for his fourth save in eight chances.

Paul DeJong also doubled and scored for St. Louis one night after he connected for a game-ending homer in a 7-6 victory. Matt Carpenter walked in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to 32 games.

"We have a 25-man roster and we have confidence in all of them," Shildt said. "They're here for a reason and guys are looking to contribute every night and in different ways."

Gonzalez was charged with five runs and five hits in four innings. The veteran left-hander is just 1-4 in his last six starts.

"I wasn't hitting my spots," Gonzalez said. "Just not being as consistent in the strike zone as I should be. It's just one of those games you can't explain."

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Nationals place Ryan Madson on 10-day DL

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Nationals place Ryan Madson on 10-day DL

Ryan Madson is the latest Washington National headed to the DL, turning the team's relief pitching rotation upside down even more than it already is. 

According to MASN's Dan Kolko, the 37-year-old is nursing a "lumbar nerve root irritation" injury and will sit out for 10 days. 

In response, the team has named Koda Glover as the closer, who was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse Wednesday. 

Glover gave up a game-ending solo blast to the Cardinals' Kevin DeJong Monday night. 

The night before, Madson was on the other end of David Bote's walk-off grand slam in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs. 

As for Tuesday night, Glover's status remains unknown.

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