Jackson solid as Nationals beat Blue Jays 6-3

June 11, 2012

TORONTO (AP) — Bryce Harper had three hits in his return to the starting lineup, Edwin 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 Monday.

Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer and Rick Ankiel also connected as the NL East leaders won for the fourth straight time and extended its lead over second place Atlanta to three games. The Braves lost to the New York Yankees 3-0.

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.

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. The Nationals have won seven of their past nine overall.

Three of Washington’s hits came from Harper, who was held out of the starting lineup Sunday because of back pain. Harper, who went 3 for 4, also walked and scored twice.

Colby Rasmus also homered for the Blue Jays, who have lost four of five.

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.

Chad Beck came on to replace Morrow and immediately gave up an RBI single to Harper.

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. ... 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.

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