Edwin Jackson knew first hand just how good the Cardinals offense can be. He has gotten a couple rough reminders lately.
The former Cardinals right-hander will look to slow one of the best offenses in the National League when the two collide in a key Game 3 on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park in Washington.
Jackson joined the Cardinals midway through last season and helped them win the 2011 World Series. Now he’s hoping to help the Nationals do the same thing, but knows he’ll have his work cut out for him from the first pitch on.
“It’s a great hitting ball club,” Jackson told reporters Tuesday. “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, you pretty much set the tone for the bullpen, and if you can go out and you can dominate, you pretty much set the tone and allow the bullpen to come in and do their job and what they are capable of doing.”
The right-hander hopes to repeat his performance when he faced the Cardinals in Washington on Aug. 30. He allowed no earned runs in eight strong innings, giving up just four hits while striking out 10 in an 8-1 Nationals win.
But his most recent outing against the powerful St. Louis lineup didn’t go nearly as good. The Cardinals ripped him for nine runs in just 1 1/3 innings as he gave up six hits, a home run and four walks while recording just four outs.
Jackson probably had rough flashbacks in St. Louis on Monday when he watched from the bench as the Cardinals recorded 12 runs on 13 hits and four home runs to even the best-of-5 series with a 12-4 beating.
And now that the Cardinals look to be clicking on all cylinders offensively, Jackson is stuck with the uneasy task of trying to slow them down in a game that might ultimately decide the winner of the series.
“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 all about throwing strikes and coming out establishing that you are going to throw strikes early in the game and make them want to swing.
“Like I said, if you get behind in the count to these guys and let them get comfortable and know you’re going to come across the plate, they do what they get paid to do real well. Like I said, establish the strike zone early and that you are going to throw strikes in and out.”
The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Chris Carpenter, who made just three starts to finish the regular season while dealing with a nerve issue in his shoulder that ultimately required surgery in July and kept him out since spring training.
Carpenter had two quality starts among the three and allowed seven earned runs in 17 innings since making his season debut Sept. 21 against the Cubs. The right-hander allowed 16 hits and had 12 strikeouts to just four walks, making noticeable improvements each time out.
“The first time out, there was nothing there,” Carpenter told reporters Tuesday. “I was actually pretty surprised because it was worse than any of my simulated games where I didn’t know what was going on. But I made it through. I made my pitches and gave my teammates a chance. Each time out, my stuff got sharper. My velocity went up. My command got better and my endurance got better.
“The game against Cincinnati, the first three or so innings, I felt like my old self, and then I started battling a little bit mechanically and physically, but I’m excited about the way I feel. I’m excited to have this opportunity.”
Carpenter’s not exactly a bad guy to have going in a crucial road game in the playoffs. Considered one of the best big-game pitchers in baseball, Carpenter beat Roy Halladay and the Phillies in a 1-0 classic in the deciding Game 5 of last year’s Division Series in Philadelphia.
The right-hander pitched the Cardinals into the playoffs a year ago with a dominating two-hit shutout on the final day of the regular season and went on to be the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series.
Now he’s back in the playoffs and back on the mound, hoping to take advantage of an opportunity nobody expected to happen when he went under the knife in July.
“Everybody knows that it wasn’t supposed to happen, but I’m excited for it,” Carpenter said. “Like I said all along, I put a lot of work into it, the medical staff put a lot of work into it. The trainers did a great job. And I put a lot of work into it to hopefully have this opportunity; I didn’t know if I was going to have this opportunity or not, and fortunately, I do. I’m looking forward to it.
“If you’re not excited about pitching in a game like this, there’s no need to play this game. That’s what it’s all about is coming out and having an opportunity to pitch in the postseason when everything matters, and hopefully do the best you can to give your team a chance to win.”
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:07 ET p.m..