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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Preview: Game 57 - Mets at Nationals - Hefner / Jackson Matchup

New York Mets (31-25) at Washington Nationals (31-22) 7:05 PM ET
SeasonRd/HmLast StartLast 3 App
J. Hefner (R) 2 1-2 5.604.20-13.605/29PHIW6.0631-214.26.75
E. Jackson (R) 10 1-3 3.175.21-13.545/29@MIAL6.2510-221.22.08

Edwin Jackson ended up being his own worst enemy last time out, pitching well but making a costly mistake that kept him winless through eight straight starts.

The Washington Nationals right-hander hopes to end that fruitless stretch this evening in the continuation of a three-game series with the New York Mets.

Jackson is 1-3 with a 3.17 earned run average through 10 starts this season and hasn't won since April 14. He has dropped back-to-back starts despite allowing only four earned runs in that span.

He was touched for two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings at the Marlins on Tuesday and it was that unearned run that led to his defeat. Jackson threw a pickoff attempt to first base wide, allowing Miami runner Chris Coghlan to advance all the way to third. He then snapped a tie game when he scored on an ensuing sacrifice fly.

"It was a well-pitched ballgame on both parts," said Jackson, who retired seven in a row at one point. "(It came down to) who can make the least amount of mistakes."

The 28-year-old made his Nationals debut on the road against the Mets back on April 9 and he did not get a decision after allowing three runs in five innings of work.

It was the Mets who made the key mistakes in last night's opener, committing three errors and blowing three separate late leads in an eventual 7-6 setback in 12 innings.

New York's Henry Rodriguez scored on a wild pitch in the top of the 10th inning, but the Mets saw Jordany Valdespin get charged with two errors in the bottom of the frame, including one that allowed Ryan Zimmerman to score a tying run.

Scott Hairston then led off the top of the 12th with a homer, but the Nationals came back with two runs in the bottom of the frame to avoid a fifth loss in six games. Ian Desmond doubled home Michael Morse to tie the game and Bryce Harper later notched his first career walk-off hit with a single to score Jesus Flores.

"Sometimes it takes some people some time to really learn how to stay calm in those situations. Everyone, obviously, is not going to do it every time, but for the most part, for how young he is, he does a really good job of it," Zimmerman said about the 19-year-old Harper.

The victory, the Nationals' third straight and seventh in their past eight versus the Mets, put Washington a game up on Miami for first place in the National League East. New York is 1 1/2 games back of Washington following a second straight defeat.

"It feels pretty bad," Hairston said about the loss. "It was one of those games where it was going back-and-forth and we had a couple of unfortunate situations on the field where things didn't go our way, but it's over with and I guess we're just going to have to learn from it and come ready to play tomorrow."

David Wright added a solo homer for the Mets, breaking a tie with Jose Reyes for the most runs scored in team history. Wright crossed the plate for the 736th time as a member of New York.

After much debate, New York manager Terry Collins will give Jeremy Hefner the start tonight to provide some extra rest for Johan Santana, who unleashed a career-high 134 pitches in Friday's no-hitter against the Cardinals. Santana will now pitch on Friday versus the Yankees, with R.A. Dickey staying on regular rest to pitch Thursday's finale with the Nats.

The right-handed Hefner will make the fifth appearance and third start of his career and is coming off his first major league victory. He picked up that win on May 29 at home versus the Phillies, throwing six innings and giving up three runs on six hits.

As if winning his first game wasn't special enough, the 26-year-old also got a hold of his first career home run.

"I almost missed first base watching the ball," said Hefner. "I was just trying to get a hit and I happened to get lucky and caught it good."

Hefner, who has never faced the Nationals, is 1-2 with a 5.60 ERA on the season.

Hefner should also have Jason Bay in left field behind him for the first time since Bay went on the disabled list on April 24 due to a fractured left rib. He is expected to be activated in time for tonight's game.

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