Braves 11, Cubs 6: The Edwin Jackson Conundrum

"That ball was in my hand just a minute ago..." - Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

I was wrong about my predicted Edwin Jackson pitching line Saturday. Too bad I wasn't right -- the Cubs might have won the game.

Now that's efficiency!

Edwin Jackson allowed nine baserunners -- five hits and four walks -- and all of them scored. It's not exactly the kind of efficiency you'd want, and three of them scored after he left the game when Carlos Villanueva gave up a bases-loaded double to Justin Upton.

Had Jackson had one of his typical games -- six innings, four runs -- the Cubs might have won, because they got 11 hits and six runs off Braves starter Mike Minor. They made efficient use of their hits, too. The Braves used the long ball, with three home runs, two of them from Chris Johnson (who had three all year in 348 at-bats before Saturday) and one from Minor, the second of his career. The Cubs, meanwhile, hit no homers at all on a day when the wind was blowing out at 14 miles per hour, but they did hit five doubles. Two of those doubles were from hot-hitting Chris Coghlan, who had three RBI on the day. As I noted yesterday, maybe Coghlan could go and work in the infield again in the offseason? He'd make a fine bench player for a future Cubs contender.

The Cubs even made the game close again after the Braves' six-run fourth. They scored three of their own in the fifth to make it 9-6, but had just one other baserunner (Coghlan, who walked in the eighth and was erased on a double play confirmed on replay review) after that, and the Braves went on to an 11-6 win after Brian Schlitter gave up two runs on four straight singles in the ninth. Now that's efficiency, too! (And more of the kind we want to see less of.)

But seriously, Theo & Co. are going to have to spend the All-Star break thinking about what Edwin Jackson's future with this team is. His ERA went up by 0.59 today -- from 5.05 to 5.64, second-worst among all qualified starters. Only Ricky Nolasco at 5.90 is worse, and not much worse, and there are only three qualified starters among 94 who are over 5.00. The third is Cleveland's Justin Masterson (5.51), a cautionary tale for those of you who thought he might be a good free-agent target for the Cubs).

Jackson just doesn't seem to have any idea what he's doing out there. He doesn't eat innings. This was his 50th start with the Cubs and he's thrown 280⅔ innings, an average of 5.61 innings per start. The Cubs are 16-34 in games he has started for the team. It's the fourth time this year out of 19 starts that he's failed to make it out of the fifth inning. For those who say, "He eats starts," well, just about anyone you could drag off the waiver wire or Triple-A could do that. Even Rodrigo Lopez was less painful to watch than Edwin Jackson.

But.

The Cubs owe him (approximately) $27 million for this year and the next two. That would be an awful lot of money to eat and I'm not advocating simply releasing him.

Could there be a team interested in taking him, sending back some sort of A-ball pitching prospect, and taking on perhaps a third or half of that money? Maybe a change of scenery would benefit Jackson?

The Yankees could do that. They have a well-respected pitching coach (so do the Cubs, but Chris Bosio doesn't seem to have been able to do anything with Jackson). The Yankees have pitching injuries they need to get past. They have had 10 different pitchers start games this year, and have had 18 games started by pitchers other than the five who have the most starts. (For comparison, the Cubs have had starts by nine different pitchers, but just nine beyond the five men with the most. That will change, of course, after the break.)

I'd rather watch Carlos Villanueva start games for the Cubs than Edwin Jackson, and I don't particularly care for Villanueva as a starter.

Anyway, beyond Jackson's awful performance, the Cubs actually did well offensively for the first five innings, including three more hits from Justin Ruggiano, before the Braves bullpen shut them down. Props to Ruggiano for overcoming a very slow start as well as an injury. Arismendy Alcantara chipped in with two more hits and played nice defense in his first center-field start as a Cub.

The Cubs pen did a decent job, too, before Schlitter's ninth inning. I'd imagine there were scouts around who will file good reports on what they saw from James Russell in this game and he might very well be traded before the deadline.

The crowd seemed a bit down, both in intensity and size, from Friday's, on a day that was gloomy and cloudy following a tremendous downpour earlier in the morning. The weather is supposed to clear by game time Sunday (after perhaps more rain overnight, like we need it) as the Cubs try to win another home series and go into the break on a high note. Travis Wood will take on the Braves' No. 1 starter, Julio Teheran, at 1:20 CT. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.

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