Hey, Edwin Jackson!
See what happens when you work fast and throw strikes?
In the 38 starts that Jackson has made for the Cubs since the beginning of 2013, Tuesday night's was just the sixth in which he didn't walk anyone. And that made for a fast-paced first seven innings; Jackson allowed just a single run and six hits (five singles and a double) and struck out nine. I saw him throw a game like this in spring training, too, so it's clear he has this kind of ability. It would be nice to see more of this.
Jackson was solved by just two White Sox hitters. Gordon Beckham and just-acquired Moises Sierra had three hits each off Jackson. Just one other Sox hitter reached base off him in seven innings -- Dayan Viciedo, who was hit by a pitch in the fourth, helping lead to the Sox' only run off Jackson on an RBI single by Sierra. Jackson then picked Sierra off first to end the inning, nicely done.
Unfortunately, the Cubs were busy making journeyman (literally, with him being on three teams already this year) Hector Noesi look like Justin Verlander. Noesi allowed just four singles and a walk and the Cubs also managed just one run off him. Junior Lake singled in the fifth inning; Chris Coghlan followed with a walk and after Jackson failed to bunt (sigh), Emilio Bonifacio singled in the tying run.
But that was it for the Cubs' offense, almost literally; they had just two baserunners after that fifth inning, both on walks, and hit only one ball out of the infield (Welington Castillo's flyout to medium right field in the ninth). This team is just not a good-hitting team. The fewest runs scored by any Cubs team in the 162-game era in a non-labor-dispute season is 570, in 1963, during a pitchers' era (and that team gave up just 578 runs, also the fewest by any Cubs team in under those same conditions, and finished 82-80).
This team has a chance, unfortunately, to challenge that mark. They've scored 113 runs in 31 games, an average of 3.645 per game. Continuing that all year would produce 590 runs, dangerously close to the mark above (second-lowest to the 1963 total was posted in 1968, 611 runs).
Neil Ramirez, who had thrown well so far this year, allowed a two-out, eighth-inning homer to Gordon Beckham that proved to be the game-winner. This came after James Russell got two lefthanded hitters (pinch-hitter Adam Dunn and Alejandro De Aza) on easy ground balls. Of course, Rick Renteria couldn't have possibly left Russell, who had pitched once in two weeks, in to face the righthanded Beckham. Illegal or something. The reflexive righty/lefty matchup switching drives me crazy at times. The platoon advantage does mean something, but not every time and not necessarily in every situation. Russell has had success against righty hitters in the past. Why not let him continue when he appears to be doing well?
Anyway, the Cubs might still have had a shot at this game if not for Pedro Strop's rough ninth inning, and now we know why he was having trouble:
#Cubs Strop says he injured his groin 5 days ago while doing lunges working out. Will have MRI on Wed— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 7, 2014
And... we didn't know this until he was in a game and pitching poorly? Why wouldn't the training and coaching staffs know this? Did Strop simply not say anything about hurting his groin during workouts? Strop got hit hard and the Cubs wound up losing to the White Sox 5-1.
If Strop has to hit the disabled list -- and a groin problem like this likely means he does -- this will give the Cubs a chance to add back a 13th position player, something I think they've really needed for some time. I'm not a big Josh Vitters fan, but he did hit two home runs Tuesday night (he's now homered four times in his last three games) and maybe he's heating up at the right time, despite poor overall numbers (.210/.282/.440). Bring the guy up and see what he can do.
Vitters hasn't played third base at all this year, but he might even be worth a shot there. I'm starting to wonder about Mike Olt, who walked in a pinch-hit at-bat and then stayed in the game to play third base. A ball hit by Tyler Flowers glanced off Olt's glove for a key hit in the Sox ninth inning -- I'm thinking a good major-league third baseman should have caught that ball. That might have turned into a double play and saved some runs.
The Cubs honored Paul Konerko before the game by having Jeff Samardzija give him a "14" plate (his uniform number) from the Wrigley scoreboard, a nice gesture for a player who's always played the game well and with dignity. (Get ready for a similar, but much more elaborate ceremony in two weeks when Derek Jeter is in town.)
The night was again chilly, with 46-degree temperatures, though a fairly large number of the 34,305 announced did show up, despite the game being played at the same time as a Blackhawks playoff game. The scene will shift to the South Side for the next two nights; I have little enthusiasm for going to the Cell, but having already paid for the tickets, I'll head down there. With Travis Wood going (against John Danks), the Cubs at least have a shot at keeping the score down. They tell us, again, that it will be warmer this evening; I'll believe it when I feel it.