Wanna be startin' somethin': Jackson gets nod at St. Louis

Edwin Jackson won a World Series title with the St. Louis Cardinals last season, but now finds himself in the opposite dugout as a member of the Washington Nationals.

Already set to return to the postseason with his new club, Jackson gets a chance on Friday evening to deal his old team's playoff hopes a bit of blow in the opener of a three-game series.

Jackson was involved in two separate trades on July 27, 2011, first getting dealt from the Chicago White Sox to the Toronto Blue Jays, who then flipped him in a seven-player deal with the Cardinals. The right-hander went 5-2 with a 3.58 earned run average in 13 appearances in the regular season with St. Louis and then 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA in four playoff games, losing his lone start in the World Series.

Jackson signed with the Nationals this past offseason and has put together a solid campaign, going 9-10 despite a respectable 3.77 ERA through 29 starts. That does include a win over his former Cardinals teammates on Aug. 30 as he threw eight strong innings and yielded just one unearned run while striking out 10.

Washington has lost each of the 29-year-old's last three starts, however. Jackson picked up a loss on Sept. 9 and has not factored into the decision in his last two outings. He did pitch well enough to win on Friday versus the Milwaukee Brewers, allowing a run on six hits -- one a solo homer -- over eight innings. Jackson struck out six without a walk.

The Cardinals have surged to a victory in eight of their past 10 games, though they did fail to complete a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros on Wednesday with a 2-0 setback.

Following an off day on Thursday, St. Louis enters the weekend three games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and four up on the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL's second wild card spot.

St. Louis pins its hopes on Adam Wainwright, who is winless in his last five starts, a span that began with a horrid outing versus the Nationals on Aug. 31. The righty was tagged for six runs on nine hits over 2 2/3 innings of that one, falling to 3-3 with a 3.89 ERA lifetime in this series.

Wainwright dropped his next two starts after that and has since posted consecutive no-decisions, though St. Louis has won both games. That includes an outing at the Chicago Cubs on Saturday in which the 31-year-old yielded four runs on six hits and two walks over seven innings.

In 31 starts this season, Wainwright is 13-13 with a 4.02 ERA.

The Nationals have already clinched a playoff spot and are closing in on the NL East title. They lead the Atlanta Braves by four games for first place and have a magic number of three to wrap up the division crown after a 7-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.

Michael Morse homered twice and drove in four runs, Bryce Harper added a solo homer and an RBI single and Gio Gonzalez overcame a shaky start to notch his 21st win of the season.

"I just couldn't find the strike zone. I was a little out of whack. After the first inning, I kind of settled in," Gonzalez said.

The Nationals have won nine of their past 12 versus the Cardinals, including three of four at home from Aug. 30-Sept. 2.