With young ace Stephen Strasburg expected to make only two more starts, the Washington Nationals will likely need some help from the latter part of their rotation.
Veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson will try to make another contribution to the Nationals' division title chase by building on a superb outing Tuesday night against the visiting Chicago Cubs.
Washington (82-52) has a 6 1/2 game-lead over Atlanta in the NL East but will have to finish the job without Strasburg, who is scheduled to make his final start this season Sept. 12. The 24-year-old right-hander, who has an NL-best 195 strikeouts, has thrown 156 1-3 innings in his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
"I think we have four of the top pitchers in the National League," general manager Mike Rizzo told the team's official website. "I think all of them can go out there under a playoff atmosphere. I think they are ultra-talented and they are stuff guys, and I think they are going to be tough to deal with against any team we play against."
Jackson (8-9, 3.53 ERA) was very tough on potential playoff foe St. Louis on Thursday as he gave up an unearned run and struck out 10 over eight innings of an 8-1 victory. The right-hander has yielded three runs or fewer in seven of his last eight outings.
He has fanned 29 batters while walking just five over 21 innings in his last three starts.
The Nationals are batting .330 with 41 runs during a 5-1 stretch, although their bats cooled off during a 2-1 victory in Monday's series opener. Washington still clinched its first winning season since 2003, two years before the franchise relocated from Montreal.
"We haven't really done anything yet, and we're looking for bigger things," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "It not being a major story shows how far we've come."
The Cubs (51-83), meanwhile, are already guaranteed a third straight losing campaign, the first time they've done that since 1990-92. They have dropped 25 of 33 overall and 14 of 15 on the road.
Chicago's continued struggles in one-run games aren't helping its cause. The Cubs are 12-23 in those contests.
"It's amazing how you can be in so many games and never win them," manager Dale Sveum said. "That's a sign of a team that needs to get a long way before you start winning those games."
Chris Rusin (0-1, 1.80) will try to help the Cubs snap a three-game skid as he returns to the majors. The left-hander gave up one run and one hit over five innings in his MLB debut Aug. 21 in Milwaukee but took the loss in a 5-2 defeat.
"It is always a good opportunity to get out there and do as good as you can and take advantage of it," Rusin said after that game. "I thought I did all right, but we didn't get the win."
Jackson hasn't faced the Cubs this year, but he posted a 2.57 ERA over his final three starts against them in 2011 while with the Cardinals.