WASHINGTON – In his first season with the Washington Nationals, Edwin Jackson has pitched very well. He was near his best on Saturday night, yet it wasn't quite good enough.
Jonathon Niese pitched into the eighth inning and Ike Davis hit a two-run homer in the seventh to lead the New York Mets to a 2-0 victory.
Jackson (7-8) cruised through six innings, allowing only a triple to Mike Baxter in the first and setting a season high with 10 strikeouts. But in the seventh, the right-hander issued a leadoff walk to David Wright and Davis drove the next pitch the other way to left field for his 22nd home run.
"Tonight, Niese was the better pitcher. He held us scoreless. The bullpen did the same. I gave up two runs. I lost," Jackson said. "When a game is close, the main objective for a pitcher is to go out and keep the game within striking distance."
Jackson pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and two hits. He walked one and struck out 11.
"That was probably the most dominant I've seen him pitch," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He was fun watching. His stuff was so electric. He was overmatching them."
Niese (10-6) allowed one-out singles to Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman in the first. With Espinosa on third, Zimmerman stole second, but the left-hander pitched out of trouble.
After allowing a leadoff single to Espinosa in the sixth, Niese retired the last seven batters he faced. Jon Rauch relieved him with one out in the eighth and retired his only two hitters. Frank Francisco worked a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances.
Francisco got help from Baxter, who made a nice running catch of Zimmerman's fly ball to right to start the ninth.
Zimmerman was puzzled that Baxter was playing him so close to the line. He was certain he had a double off the wall.
"It was a good catch. I really had no idea why he was there, but he got me out," Zimmerman said.
Niese, who is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in six games against Washington, allowed five hits and struck out seven without a walk. New York posted its 11th shutout of the season, while Washington was blanked for the fifth time.
"He had this big, sweeping cutter he was using. Guys felt like he came up with a new pitch," Johnson said.
The Nationals remained four games ahead of second-place Atlanta in the NL East. The Braves lost to the Dodgers 6-2. The two teams begin a three-game series Monday in Washington.
NOTES: Washington OF Bryce Harper started the game on the bench but entered in the eighth inning. ... Johnson said he would give SS Ian Desmond the day off on Sunday. Desmond returned Friday from more than three weeks on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. ... For the 500th straight time, the character portraying Teddy Roosevelt lost in the Nationals' "Racing Presidents" mascot race. ... The crowd of 42,662 was the second-largest in Nationals Park history. ... Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez (15-6, 3.29 ERA) pitches Sunday against New York RHP Jeremy Hefner (2-4, 4.76). ... Seventeen of Davis' 22 homers have come on the road, most in the NL.