Nationals 6, Blue Jays 3

Edwin Jackson labored through a lengthy first inning Monday

night. After that, he was lights out.

Bryce Harper had three hits in his return to the starting

lineup, Jackson pitched eight strong innings to win consecutive

starts for the first time this season and the Washington Nationals

beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3.

Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer and Rick Ankiel also connected

as the NL East-leading Nationals won their fourth straight and

extended their lead over second place Atlanta to three games. The

Braves lost to the New York Yankees 3-0.

Jackson needed 24 pitches to get through the first, an inning in

which he also gave up a second deck homer to Toronto’s Colby

Rasmus.

”It was like molasses drying or something,” manager Davey

Johnson said of Jackson’s slow inning.

Things were a whole lot quicker after that. Jackson retired 21

of the next 26 batters he faced, including 10 straight at one

stretch.

”Just an unbelievable performance,” Harper said. ”He had

everything working for him, his fastball was good, his curveball,

his changeup. He was really effective tonight.”

Jackson (3-3) improved to 4-0 in his past seven starts against

Toronto dating to July 30, 2008. The right-hander, who had gone

eight starts without a win before beating the New York Mets in his

last outing, allowed two runs and three hits. He walked three and

struck out three.

Jackson credited his turnaround to a strong connection with

batterymate Jesus Flores.

”Pretty much what I was thinking, he was thinking,” Jackson

said. ”That always helps when the pitcher and the catcher are both

on the same mind frame. I just kept it going, just tried to speed

the pace of the game up.”

Jackson said he’s trying to match or exceed the performances of

Washington’s youthful starters, including Gio Gonzalez, Stephen

Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. It’s the kind of competition

Johnson is happy to see from his deep staff.

”No question about it, everybody is trying to outdo the other

guy,” Johnson said. ”There’s some awful good games I’m seeing

pitched against some awfully good clubs. It’s fun.”

Left-hander Sean Burnett came on after Edwin Encarnacion’s

leadoff double in the ninth and gave up a two-run homer to

pinch-hitter Yan Gomes before finishing off the win.

The Nationals pounded out 14 hits, two shy of their season high

for a nine inning game, and improved to 5-2 in interleague play

this season. Washington has won seven of nine overall.

Harper was held out of the starting lineup Sunday because of

back pain. He went 3 for 4 and also walked and scored twice.

Toronto lost starting pitcher Brandon Morrow just nine pitches

into the first inning when the right-hander strained a muscle in

his left side.

After giving up a leadoff double to Steve Lombardozzi, Morrow

(7-4) motioned for the trainer after missing low on a 1-1 pitch to

Harper, the second hitter of the game. Following a brief discussion

involving manager John Farrell, Morrow walked off the field and

down the steps to the clubhouse.

”I felt it on the first pitch to Harper,” Morrow said. ”I

felt like a stabbing in my side when I threw it.”

Morrow continued to feel tightness in his lower rib cage after

coming out of the game and will be reevaluated Tuesday. Farrell

said the injury was ”probably substantial.”

”He was in considerable pain,” Farrell said. ”There will be

further imaging, further testing in the morning.”

Chad Beck came on to replace Morrow and immediately gave up an

RBI single to Harper.

”That’s never happened to me before,” Harper said of facing

two pitchers in the same at-bat. ”It was kind of weird to go back

up there and get into the zone again and get comfortable.”

Harper went to third when Ryan Zimmerman reached on a fielding

error by first baseman David Cooper, then scored on Michael Morse’s

sacrifice fly.

Rasmus cut the deficit in half with a solo drive to right in the

bottom half, his ninth, but LaRoche responded with a two-run shot

to right in the third, his 11th.

Washington tacked on one more in the seventh on an RBI single by

Ian Desmond, and another in the eighth on Ankiel’s drive to left,

his fourth. The homer came off Blue Jays right-hander Francisco

Cordero.

NOTES: Nationals OF Roger Bernadina strained his right hamstring

while advancing from first to third on a wild pitch in the fourth.

He was initially replaced by Xavier Nady, but Ankiel took over

defensively in the seventh. Bernadina will be re-evaluated Tuesday.

… Beck was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas following the game,

with LHP Evan Crawford and LHP Aaron Laffey recalled from Triple-A.

Toronto will make a second roster move Tuesday to make room on the

roster, with Morrow likely headed to the DL. … The Blue Jays have

lost four of five. … Washington RHP Drew Storen (right elbow)

threw off the mound Monday for the second time since undergoing

surgery. Storen is not expected to return until after the All Star

break. … Nationals RHP Ryan Mattheus (left foot) will make a

second rehab appearance with Class A Potomac on Tuesday, and is

expected to work one inning or more. … The Blue Jays signed 22

draft picks Monday, including first round selection OF D.J.

Davis.