Familiar spot paying off for resurgent Jackson

Veteran tosses seven innings of one-run ball vs. Padres on Thursday

August 18th, 2017

SAN DIEGO -- has been with 12 Major League teams, but the Nationals are the first he's played for twice. For Jackson, a rare sense of familiarity is paying off.

In Washington's 2-1 victory over the Padres on Thursday, Jackson matched a season high by going seven innings, holding the Padres to one run on eight hits. In six starts with the Nationals, he has a 2.92 ERA, flashing effectiveness and consistency that the veteran right-hander hasn't often displayed the past few seasons.

"Coming into a situation, not putting much pressure on yourself, trying not to do too much, to fit in, just kind of be myself and allow myself to fit in a groove naturally without forcing the issue," Jackson said. "It helps when you know people in the clubhouse. You know buddies. You're familiar with faces. Just an organization that you've always felt comfortable with, it's one of those things where it's a good situation to allow myself to come in and get comfortable and pitch like I know I can pitch."

A former Padre, Jackson earned his first career win in 16 games (11 starts) against San Diego, leaving the Braves as the only Major League team he has never beat. He added the Padres to his list with command and efficiency, traits the 33-year-old often lacked in his early seasons.

Early in his career, the 33-year-old's erraticism, mixed with top stuff, led to flashes of brilliance, but struggles were more common. For seven of Jackson's 12 teams, he posted an ERA higher than 5.00.

"You don't hang around this league as long as he has without being able to pitch," said first baseman , whose eighth-inning home run made Jackson the winner. "He's still got the stuff. Just the amount of experience he has. He knows how to pitch.

"To know what kind of person he is, and teammate he is, you feel good for guys that get those chances, because I feel like he deserves it."

Jackson completed seven innings on 83 pitches, which included pitching around doubles in the first and second. His lone blemish came in the third when after allowing a double to , plated the Padres' lone run with a single.

Margot and Asuaje had consecutive singles in the fifth, but Jackson got Pirela to hit into an inning-ending double play.

"He's a great competitor," manager Dusty Baker said. "He finds a way to keep us in a ballgame. Looked like he's gaining more and more confidence. He's getting more control of the strike zone.

"He just wants to do whatever he can to contribute to this club."

Baker called Jackson "lucky," stating that the veteran's understanding of the mental side of pitching has come while his arm still supplies quality stuff.

For Jackson, it has come down to trust -- in himself, and in his defense.

"Once you have a feel for your body, and feel for what you're doing on the mound, it's a lot easier for you to go out and consistently throw strikes," Jackson said. "That's kind of been my thing -- have mechanics, have mechanics, lose it. It's just ride the wave when you have it and try to remember that feeling."