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Jackson 2-hitter helps Rays end skid, beat Mariners

ST. PETERSBURG — The results of Edwin Jackson's dominating performance Thursday afternoon were obvious. The two hits he allowed the Mariners over eight dazzling innings, the 7-0 Rays' win he sparked that snapped a four-game losing streak, the rave reviews coming out of both clubhouses.

But it will be the residuals that are most telling.

The most consistent thing about Jackson in the past has been his maddening inconsistency, and after a second solid start to open this season, with a pair of wins and a 0.64 ERA, the Rays are more than curious to see if the improvement is legit or just another tease.

"That's the kind of game I would believe a young pitcher like Edwin can really build on internally also, in regard to his own self-confidence beyond the confidence that we have in him," manager Joe Maddon said. "You throw a game like that after a four-game losing streak, that does a lot for your own self-esteem, too. I'm almost eager to see him come out for his next start right now to see how he follows up (Tuesday against the Yankees) because he's had two very good ones in a row."

Jackson, 24, showed the kind of "dominant stuff," as Maddon called it, he is capable of: throwing his mid- to upper-90s fastball for low strikes, breaking off nasty sliders and mixing in changeups, a repertoire that left Seattle hitters looking dazed.

"It just seemed like they didn't want no part of him today," leftfielder Carl Crawford said.

Add in a resurgent offense, sparked by Eric Hinske's fourth-inning homer and Mike Difelice's three RBIs, and some snazzy defense, including Crawford's spectacular diving catch to end a Seattle threat, and the Rays (4-5) were all smiling again.

Jackson tries to keep his pitches down and on the corners, but he tends to stay in the middle of the plate with his quotes, sticking to standard lines about doing the best he can and not getting too up or down based on performance. He didn't say much different during the 0-8 start to last season's 5-15, 5.76 ERA mess, or after what had been his previous best effort, a four-hit, complete-game shutout at Texas on Aug. 11.

But Jackson acknowledged Thursday that he felt considerable pressure to stop the losing streak and that he felt pretty good after doing it.

"Even through all the bad times, I never did lose confidence," he said. "I just told myself it's a matter of time. You're going to go through your bad times, and regardless what everyone says — he says, she says — I didn't really pay attention to it, short-term memory, just because I believe. And I knew that it can't be like that forever.

"I did have my bad times, and I still might have them. But it's just not having as many and still coming back and being able to pick the team up when they need it."

There's also pride in there, too, and that has started to seep out.

"He has to sit around and listen to how good (Scott Kazmir) and (James) Shields and (Matt) Garza is when his stuff is just as good," Crawford said. "I think he's just out to prove to everybody that he's good, too. He doesn't like being the odd man out. Nobody does."

Marc Topkin can be reached at
topkin@sptimes.com.

Rays 7

Mariners 0

Jackson 2-hitter helps Rays end skid, beat Mariners 04/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2008 4:38pm]
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