After a grueling West Coast road trip and time off during the All-Star break, this was not the homecoming the Nationals had hoped for upon returning to the District in yesterday’s home opener against the Brewers.
With Edwin Jackson starting his 2nd game in replacement of the injured Stephen Strasburg, the Nats hoped E-Jax could build on the success he had last week in Anaheim and continue the momentum of a 7-2 road trip. But Jackson labored through 5 innings and wasn’t nearly as sharp yesterday as he was in Anaheim last week. E-Jax gave up seven hits, three walks, three home runs, and seven runs total (3 ER), throwing 112 pitches in what ended up an 8-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Meanwhile, the bats the Nationals had relied on so heavily for their recent success went silent at home as Zach Davies held the Nationals in check over 7 2⁄3 scoreless, efficient innings of work in, giving up three hits and three walks in his longest start of the season. Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman both went 1 for 4 with a single each, as Zimmerman continues to struggle to get his early season groove back. On a bright note, Bryce Harper singled in the 8th inning to keep his hitting streak going at 17 games.
After the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed unfazed by Jackson’s rough start and showed confidence in the veteran. “His pitch count got up high,” Dusty Baker said, “and he didn’t have the command that he had last time. He was wild high and away.” It a perfect summary statement, Baker added, “It was a rough night for Edwin tonight.”
In spit of his struggles in the loss, Jackson will get another opportunity to start next time his turn in the rotation comes around. “He’s not on a pitch-by-pitch, performance-type thing,” Baker said. “That can happen to anybody. So, sure, I don’t see why not.”
Luckily, before the game, Baker had reassured the assembled press who had gathered for his pregame presser that Stephen Strasburg’s issues seemed to be minor and not long term, and that he would be making his next start. That piece of news ended up being the best news of the night for a Nats team who hopes to rebound tonight with Gio Gonzalez on the mound. All eyes will be on him tonight literally, as the entire baseball universe will be tuned in to see the 2018 All-Star logo which will be on display over his right shoulder throughout the game as well.
*Note: Congratulations are in order to Dusty Baker for being inducted into the USMC Sports Hall of Fame. The officially ceremony took place last night prior to the first pitch at Nationals Park. Thank you Dusty, from all of us!