Jackson, Nats best Jays to win fourth straight

Jackson, Nats best Jays to win fourth straight

Jackson, Nats best Jays to win fourth straight
TORONTO -- Rookie phenom Bryce Harper provided three of the Nationals' 14 hits to help back a dominant outing from starter Edwin Jackson, who lasted into the ninth inning before handing it to the bullpen to secure a 6-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

Jackson was sensational for much of the evening. He was removed after surrendering a leadoff double to Edwin Encarnacion in the ninth, but logged his fifth consecutive quality start, lowered his ERA to 3.02 and improved to 3-3 on the year.

"I don't keep up with the numbers, I just try to go out and help the team as much as I can," Jackson said.

In his first trip to Canada, Harper put his array of talents on full display and showed just over 18,500 at Rogers Centre the reason why he was the most hyped prospect in recent memory.

Harper made his presence felt from the start, showed the poise of a veteran at the plate, got serenaded with a chorus of "Harper" chants while manning the outfield, and helped the Nationals extend their winning streak to four games.

"Has anybody?" Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said when asked if he has ever seen a 19-year-old as good as Harper. "You don't see many 19-year-olds come up and play period, much less be hitting two-hole on a first-place team. Just an unbelievable future ahead of him.

"He's a kid that knows he belongs here. There is zero intimidation. If anything, that is starting to get reversed a little bit. He is a force at the plate, people are starting to recognize that. You tend to forget that he's 19 once in a while."

Harper got things going right away for the Nationals, cashing in the first run of the game with a hard-hit single to right field that scored leadoff man Steve Lombardozzi. The youngest player in baseball, Harper, would come around to score later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Michael Morse. Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista came gunning home, but Harper slid in past the tag of J.P. Arencibia.

After Jackson served up an upper-deck homer to Colby Rasmus in the bottom half of the inning, Harper helped him get that run back his next plate appearance.

Harper drew a one-out walk then stole second base, his fourth swipe of the season, before being driven in on a two-run shot by LaRoche in the third that put the Nationals ahead, 4-1.

In his next two plate appearances, Harper singled twice more, and it wasn't until the fifth time he stepped up to the plate, in the eighth inning, that the Blue Jays were able to keep him off the basepaths.

After the game, Harper spoke like someone who has been doing it for years, not months.

"You just try to stay on an even keel so that you don't get too high, get too low," said Harper, who increased his average to .295. "You just try to come here and get the 'W' every day, and try to be as comfortable as you can at the plate, not chase pitches, and wait for yours."

Bautista got Harper back in the fifth inning, however, as he tossed him out from right field as Harper tried to go first to third. Harper drew a lot of contact with Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie as he slid into the base, and joked about it after the game.

"I was like, 'Crap, I hope I didn't [tick] him off.' He's a big boy, I don't want to [tick] him off," Harper said about Lawrie. "Bautista, of course, made a friggin' heck of a throw. I didn't want to run [Lawrie] over or anything like that, so I was trying to slide and avoid it, and he got me. Got to tip my cap."

Harper, Lombardozzi, LaRoche and Ian Desmond all had multihit games, and Rick Ankiel provided the final blow with a pinch-hit solo homer in the eighth that increased Washington's lead to 6-1.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Jackson let it be known he wanted to head out for the ninth, despite throwing over 100 pitches after eight, and the skipper agreed to it because of how impressed he was with the right-hander.

"He's got great stuff, he's stingy about giving up hits per inning," Johnson said. "His command is a lot better."

Blue Jays manager John Farrell felt Jackson's three-pitch arsenal was quite effective in keeping Toronto hitters off balance.

"Credit to Edwin Jackson, slowed us down, changed speeds a number of times and, really, [we] didn't have a whole lot to mount," Farrell said. "We couldn't really get anything offensively sustained to mount any kind of comeback here tonight."

Toronto was forced to turn to Chad Beck after starter Brandon Morrow, who was credited with the loss, was removed in the first with a left oblique strain after throwing nine pitches.

The Nationals suffered an injury of their own, as Roger Bernadina, who started the game in center field, was forced to leave in the fourth after going from first to third on a wild pitch. After he slid into third, he popped up in obvious pain and was replaced by Xavier Nady. Bernadina was later diagnosed with a strained right hamstring.

Washington has won six of its past seven games and holds a three-game lead over the Marlins in the National League East.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.