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Edwin Jackson got plenty of handshakes after last night's win in Toronto.
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.