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HINGTON -- For all this talk of the no-experience Nationals, one pitcher in their clubhouse is sitting on a wealth of it.
Edwin Jackson has twice reached the playoffs, including last October when he started Game 4 of the Fall Classic for the eventual World Series-champion Cardinals. Now, Jackson is preparing to reprise that role for the Nats, pitching Wednesday's Game 3 of the National League Division Series (1 p.m. ET on MLB Network) against the same team he helped earn a ring with last year.
"I feel like I'm the only one with the experience in the rotation now," Jackson said. "It's high expectations on me."
But as Jackson already knows and the Nats -- see: Tyler Moore, Game 1 -- are learning, experience (or lack thereof) does not always translate into success (or vice versa). The Cards lost Jackson's World Series outing last October in part because he walked seven batters, allowing three runs over 5 1/3 innings. That came after an NL Championship Series stumble against the Brewers in which he gave up six runs over 6 1/3 innings.
Jackson also appeared in two rounds of the postseason, including the World Series, as a reliever for the Rays in 2008. And despite his October struggles, including a 5.60 ERA in four starts, he believes those experiences can only help.
Loves to face: Ryan Zimmerman: 3-for-13. Hates to face: Ian Desmond: 4-for-7, 3 RBI.
Loves to face: Carlos Beltran: 1-for-6, 2 K's. Hates to face: Yadier Molina: 8-for-12, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs.
Why he'll win: Carpenter went 4-0 in the 2011 playoffs.
Why he'll win: Jackson has seven games of postseason experience.
Pitcher beware: Carpenter has thrown only 17 innings this season.
Pitcher beware: Jackson went 2-2 with a 6.54 ERA in September.
Bottom line: Carpenter is reliable and playoff-tested.
Bottom line: Jackson is the only Nats starter with postseason experience prior to this season.
"The thing about postseason baseball is the game can speed up real quick," Jackson said. "You have to kind of control the pace and control the tempo, and having experience in that, it definitely helps when you get in those situations, being able to slow the game down and kind of take the crowd out of the equation and just think about concentrating on what you have to do."
Yet October aside, Jackson will have the best chance of winning if he draws upon nothing more than what made him successful during the regular season. The 29-year-old became a different pitcher this summer, posting the best strikeout rate and by far the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career, despite a significant decline in velocity. Though those advancements resulted in just a 10-11 record and a 4.03 ERA, they also suggest Jackson may have developed as a pitcher.
"He's just a quality pitcher," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "He's got good stuff, a great moving fastball. He keeps everything down like he usually does, great breaking stuff. He's tough."
The cloud hanging over Jackson heading into Wednesday's start, however, is the fact that his worst outing of the regular season came less than two weeks ago against his former team. In his first start back at Busch Stadium since signing a one-year, $11 million contract with the Nationals over the winter, Jackson gave up nine runs (eight earned) while recording just four outs.
But that debacle came a month after Jackson held the Cardinals to one unearned run over eight innings in Washington, striking out 10.
"You look at the first outing, I was aggressive, I was throwing strikes, I was in the strike zone, I was ahead," Jackson said. "The second start, I wasn't. It's pretty simple.
"It's a great hitting ballclub. Guys one through nine, they can hit the ball real well. You have to come out, be aggressive and not let those guys get comfortable, and the starters pretty much set the tone for the bullpen. It's imperative for us to go out and establish command and establish control of the game."
With words such as those, Jackson appears to have learned from his two previous outings against the Cardinals -- both the good and the bad. Now, leading his club into Game 3 at Nationals Park, he will look to rebound both from his past postseason stumbles, as well.
"At this point, I'm out to help my team win," said Jackson, who was 6-6 at home this season. "I'm not out to prove a point to anyone. I'm not out with a chip on my shoulder. I mean, everyone knows my capabilities. It's just a matter of being consistent with it. We fought all year. We have been through a lot of adversities, and it would be nice if we would be able to come out with a positive outcome in this postseason."