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NYM@WSH: Jackson hurls seven solid innings vs. Mets

Mets left-hander Jon Niese will take the mound on Saturday against the same Washington Nationals team he dominated a month earlier.

Niese was brilliant against the Nationals on July 17, when he delivered seven innings of one-run ball along with eight strikeouts. And in his last start -- last Sunday against Atlanta -- Niese tossed eight innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts.

Washington will send Edwin Jackson to the hill as he looks to rebound from a rough start against Arizona last Saturday. Jackson pitched just 5 2/3 innings and gave up five runs and eight hits, but Washington's offense bailed him out as he went on to earn the win.

"Right now, we can afford to have a game like today, when you have a starter out there having to kind of grind through it without his best stuff and still come away with a win," first baseman Adam LaRoche said after last Saturday's game -- at the time, Washington's ninth consecutive victory. "That's nice now, to be able to take a little bit of pressure off of [the starters] and allow for some outings like that. It's a huge help.

"When you've got everything going, this is what you get."

Mets: Rauch consistent out of bullpen
The Mets' league-worst bullpen certainly gets is fair share of criticism. But as of late, Jon Rauch in making a case to be exempt from such talk.

Rauch has allowed just one run on five hits in 14 1/3 innings over his last 20 appearances, good for a 0.63 ERA. He earned his third save of the season in Thursday's 8-4 win over the Reds.

"Well, he's always throwing strikes," manager Terry Collins said of Rauch. "All year long, he's been throwing strikes. He went through that streak where he gave up some home runs, it happens. And then his elbow flared up a little bit, and I think since we rested him, he's pitched a little bit more consistently."

Rauch has been lights-out for New York since his early-summer struggles, as he hasn't given up an earned run since July 26. Collins said the drastic improvement is a result of a more consistent workload.

"He went through a stretch where he went some days where he didn't pitch, and then all of a sudden he'd go three or four days where he did pitch," Collins said. "Now, he's been in on a lot more consistent basis, and not with a lot of work, too."

Nationals: Desmond returns from DL stint
Washington reinstated All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond from the 15-day disabled list on Friday afternoon and designated infielder Cesar Izturis for assignment to clear a roster spot. Desmond finished 0-for-4 in the Nationals' 6-4 win over the Mets.

"It's exciting to get back out there. It's not tough to watch the team win, but tough to not be playing and contributing. I'm excited to be back out there with the guys," Desmond said.

Washington manager Davey Johnson said that he didn't feel Desmond -- who hadn't played in a game since July 21 because of a torn oblique -- needed a rehab assignment prior to returning to the team.

"I never knew what a rehab assignment was when I was a player," Johnson said. "The only thing that I worry about is [if] he wasn't completely healed. ... I've been watching him swing. He has had no discomfort."

Worth noting
• Scott Hairston doubled in each of his first three at-bats on Friday night against Nationals southpaw Ross Detwiler, tying a Mets' single-game record.

• Nats slugger Michael Morse's fourth-inning grand slam Friday extended his hitting streak to 13 games.

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