HOUSTON -- With about six weeks to go until the start of the National League Division Series, Nationals manager Dusty Baker acknowledged the idea was still a bit premature. But perhaps right-hander Edwin Jackson is beginning to pitch himself into the club's postseason plans after another strong start in Wednesday
HOUSTON -- With about six weeks to go until the start of the National League Division Series, Nationals manager Dusty Baker acknowledged the idea was still a bit premature. But perhaps right-hander Edwin Jackson is beginning to pitch himself into the club's postseason plans after another strong start in Wednesday night's 6-1 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Jackson -- who will don his nickname "E. Jax" for MLB's inaugural Players Weekend this Friday through Sunday -- held Houston's potent offense to two runs in six innings and once again was efficient with a pitch count of 95 to keep his team in the game. It was his fifth quality start in seven outings with Washington to go along with a 2.93 ERA.
The Nationals already have four starting pitchers who, if healthy, are virtual locks for their rotation -- Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Giovany Gonzalez and Tanner Roark. Cracking that rotation might be tough regardless of how well Jackson pitches. But after the veteran was initially brought in as an innings-eater when right-hander Joe Ross was lost to the season to have Tommy John surgery, perhaps Jackson is making a case to be included on the postseason roster.
"Playoff roster is playoff roster," Jackson said. "That's way too far in the future for me to focus on. I have a job to do. I have a task right now, and that's to eat innings and do what I'm here to do -- keep us in games and help the bullpen a little bit."
If Jackson continues to have success, he could provide another option for Washington in a few weeks. They solidified the back of their bullpen with their additions before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but they are still searching for players to help bridge the gap between their starting pitchers and back-end relievers.
Jackson has experience pitching out of the bullpen and as a starter. He has shown he still has some life on his fastball and has reached back and dialed it up into the upper 90s at times. That could be useful in a short-relief stint, but Jackson also has the ability to throw multiple innings if a game goes into extras.
"I think it's a little ahead," Baker said prior to the game regarding Jackson's chances of making the postseason roster. "I've thought about some things, but I try to refrain from thinking about those things because you got to accomplish your first goal first."
Until the Nationals officially clinch a postseason berth, they will be reluctant to talk about the playoff roster. And even though the sample is still small, Jackson has shown to be a much more effective pitcher than the one who began the season with the Orioles.
"Probably has an increased perseverance and desire because he didn't like going down to the bushes," Baker said of Jackson being designated for assignment and heading to Triple-A. "He knows that he has the stuff to pitch in the big leagues."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.