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Turner delivers quality goods in spot start

Special to MLB.com

DENVER -- Like the rest of the 2009 Draft class, Jacob Turner has spent much of his baseball career in Stephen Strasburg's wake. Ironically, Turner -- the No. 9 pick that year and a non-roster invitee to Spring Training camp this year -- made his season debut by filling the shoes of the Nats ace and former No. 1 pick, who missed his scheduled start on Monday while on paternity leave.

Turner opened his season at the always dangerous Coors Field, taming it for the better part of six innings, giving up three runs on six hits while striking out six and taking a no-decision in the 8-4 loss to the Rockies. It was the Nats' 12th consecutive quality start.

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DENVER -- Like the rest of the 2009 Draft class, Jacob Turner has spent much of his baseball career in Stephen Strasburg's wake. Ironically, Turner -- the No. 9 pick that year and a non-roster invitee to Spring Training camp this year -- made his season debut by filling the shoes of the Nats ace and former No. 1 pick, who missed his scheduled start on Monday while on paternity leave.

Turner opened his season at the always dangerous Coors Field, taming it for the better part of six innings, giving up three runs on six hits while striking out six and taking a no-decision in the 8-4 loss to the Rockies. It was the Nats' 12th consecutive quality start.

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"He gave us all we needed," manager Dusty Baker said. "He threw quality strikes. He had a good breaking ball. He threw a real good changeup to [Carlos Gonzalez] to strike him out. He had a very positive outing."

Baker turned to Turner in hopes that his experience over parts of five big league seasons would keep him from being intimidated in a hitter-friendly park with a potent offensive lineup. Turner delivered, channeling a calm intensity as he went after the Rockies' lineup and minimized their opportunities for damage.

"I was just trying to stay aggressive, especially here," Turner said. "You can't put extra guys on base. I was just trying to stay as aggressive as I could in the zone."

Turner kept the traffic to a minimum, walking none, which made the difference in his leaving the game with a 4-3 lead after six.

"The fastball command got better as the game went on, but I was really trying to establish in and just get ahead in the count," he said. "As the game went on, some of the other pitches came back a little bit. The breaking ball was better the second time through the order."

It was the third time through when he was hit the hardest, with a Nolan Arenado triple sandwiched between strikeouts of DJ LeMahieu and Gonzalez, then a two-run bomb from Mark Reynolds -- his sixth of the year -- to pull the Rockies within a run.

"We put up four the inning before, so I wanted to go out and put up a zero," Turner said. "That's disappointing, to give up that homer there. But the same game plan, just trying to stay aggressive no matter what the count is. He got me."

Though they didn't take the lead at that time, the Rockies seized the momentum, adding on in the seventh and eighth while their 'pen stifled the Nats' bats.

"That was a huge hit," Rockies manager Bud Black said of the Reynolds homer. "We were down, 4-1. The momentum had swung their way, and Mark with a big knock, that was great. Good swing. And Turner was pitching great."

Turner had traveled ahead of his teammates, who left New York after a late game and got to Colorado at 4 a.m., but he wasted no time filling Strasburg's shoes and picking up his new teammates.

"Comes in for a spot start and does a really good job keeping them off balance early with a plus fastball and really good breaking stuff," outfielder Adam Eaton said. "He gave us a really good boost there."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver and covered the Nationals on Friday.

Washington Nationals, Jacob Turner