|Washington (36-23) «||2||0||2||0||0||0||1||1||0||6||14||1|
TORONTO -- Edwin Jackson labored through a lengthy first inning Monday night. After that, he was lights out.
Bryce Harper had three hits in his return to the starting lineup, Jackson pitched eight strong innings to win consecutive starts for the first time this season and the Washington Nationals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3.
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Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer and Rick Ankiel also connected as the NL East-leading Nationals won their fourth straight and extended their lead over second place Atlanta to three games. The Braves lost to the New York Yankees 3-0.
Jackson needed 24 pitches to get through the first, an inning in which he also gave up a second deck homer to Toronto's Colby Rasmus.
"It was like molasses drying or something," manager Davey Johnson said of Jackson's slow inning.
Things were a whole lot quicker after that. Jackson retired 21 of the next 26 batters he faced, including 10 straight at one stretch.
"Just an unbelievable performance," Harper said. "He had everything working for him, his fastball was good, his curveball, his changeup. He was really effective tonight."
Jackson (3-3) improved to 4-0 in his past seven starts against Toronto dating to July 30, 2008. The right-hander, who had gone eight starts without a win before beating the New York Mets in his last outing, allowed two runs and three hits. He walked three and struck out three.
Jackson credited his turnaround to a strong connection with batterymate Jesus Flores.
"Pretty much what I was thinking, he was thinking," Jackson said. "That always helps when the pitcher and the catcher are both on the same mind frame. I just kept it going, just tried to speed the pace of the game up."
Jackson said he's trying to match or exceed the performances of Washington's youthful starters, including Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. It's the kind of competition Johnson is happy to see from his deep staff.
"No question about it, everybody is trying to outdo the other guy," Johnson said. "There's some awful good games I'm seeing pitched against some awfully good clubs. It's fun."
The Nationals pounded out 14 hits, two shy of their season high for a nine inning game, and improved to 5-2 in interleague play this season. Washington has won seven of nine overall.
Harper was held out of the starting lineup Sunday because of back pain. He went 3 for 4 and also walked and scored twice.
Toronto lost starting pitcher Brandon Morrow just nine pitches into the first inning when the right-hander strained a muscle in his left side.
After giving up a leadoff double to Steve Lombardozzi, Morrow (7-4) motioned for the trainer after missing low on a 1-1 pitch to Harper, the second hitter of the game. Following a brief discussion involving manager John Farrell, Morrow walked off the field and down the steps to the clubhouse.
"I felt it on the first pitch to Harper," Morrow said. "I felt like a stabbing in my side when I threw it."
Morrow continued to feel tightness in his lower rib cage after coming out of the game and will be reevaluated Tuesday. Farrell said the injury was "probably substantial."
"He was in considerable pain," Farrell said. "There will be further imaging, further testing in the morning."
Chad Beck came on to replace Morrow and immediately gave up an RBI single to Harper.
"That's never happened to me before," Harper said of facing two pitchers in the same at-bat. "It was kind of weird to go back up there and get into the zone again and get comfortable."
Rasmus cut the deficit in half with a solo drive to right in the bottom half, his ninth, but LaRoche responded with a two-run shot to right in the third, his 11th.
Washington tacked on one more in the seventh on an RBI single by Ian Desmond, and another in the eighth on Ankiel's drive to left, his fourth. The homer came off Blue Jays right-hander Francisco Cordero.
|The Nationals' Edwin Jackson throws eight strong innings to win consecutive starts for the first time this season. (US Presswire)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Stephen Lombardozzi, LF||5||2||2||0||0||0||2||.287|
|Bryce Harper, RF-CF^RF||4||2||3||1||1||1||1||.295|
|Ryan Zimmerman, 3B||5||0||1||0||0||1||5||.244|
|Adam LaRoche, 1B||5||1||2||2||0||0||3||.261|
|Michael Morse, DH||4||0||1||1||0||0||4||.194|
|Ian Desmond, SS||5||0||2||1||0||0||2||.269|
|Danny Espinosa, 2B||4||0||1||0||0||2||3||.228|
|Roger Bernadina, CF||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||.247|
|Xavier Nady, PR-RF||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.147|
|Rick Ankiel, CF||1||1||1||1||0||0||0||.231|
|Jesus Flores, C||4||0||1||0||0||2||2||.241|
|2B - Stephen Lombardozzi (8, Morrow), Jesus Flores (3, Cordero)|
|HR - Adam LaRoche (11, Beck), Rick Ankiel (4, Cordero)|
|SF - Michael Morse (1)|
|RBI - Bryce Harper (18), Adam LaRoche 2 (42), Michael Morse (3), Ian Desmond (31), Rick Ankiel (13)|
|2-OUT RBI - Adam LaRoche 2 (14), Ian Desmond (14)|
|SB - Bryce Harper (4, 2nd base off Beck/Arencibia)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|Edwin Jackson (W,3-3)||8||4||2||2||3||3||1||3.02|
|Pitches-Strikes - Edwin Jackson 108-69, Sean Burnett 16-11|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Edwin Jackson 12-9, Sean Burnett 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Edwin Jackson 31, Sean Burnett 4|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|Brett Lawrie, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.274|
|Colby Rasmus, CF||4||1||1||1||0||0||0||.248|
|Jose Bautista, RF||2||0||0||0||2||0||1||.228|
|Edwin Encarnacion, DH||4||1||1||0||0||1||3||.290|
|Kelly Johnson, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||2||3||.250|
|Yunel Escobar, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.250|
|David Cooper, 1B||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||.314|
|a- Yan Gomes, PH||1||1||1||2||0||0||0||.226|
|J.P. Arencibia, C||3||0||1||0||1||0||0||.228|
|Rajai Davis, LF||3||0||0||0||0||1||2||.247|
|a-homered for Cooper in the 9th|
|2B - Edwin Encarnacion (13, Jackson)|
|HR - Colby Rasmus (9, Jackson), Yan Gomes (3, Burnett)|
|RBI - Colby Rasmus (29), Yan Gomes 2 (8)|
|2-OUT RBI - Yan Gomes 2 (3)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|Outfield Assists - Jose Bautista 1|
|DP - Escobar-Johnson-Cooper|
|PB - J.P. Arencibia (8)|
|E - David Cooper (1, Misplayed grounder)|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|Brandon Morrow (L,7-4)||0||1||1||1||0||0||0||3.01|
|WP - Chad Beck (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Brandon Morrow 9-6, Chad Beck 56-33, Luis Perez 38-29, Jason Frasor 14-11, Francisco Cordero 17-9, Carlos Villanueva 8-4|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chad Beck 5-4, Luis Perez 3-1, Jason Frasor 1-1, Francisco Cordero 1-1, Carlos Villanueva 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Brandon Morrow 1, Chad Beck 17, Luis Perez 11, Jason Frasor 5, Francisco Cordero 5, Carlos Villanueva 3|
|Attendance - 18513|
|Game Time - 3:03|
|Temperature - 68|
|Umpires - Home - Field Culbreth, First Base - Adrian Johnson, Second Base - Gary Cederstrom, Third Base - Lance Barksdale|