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Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 4: Not Edwin Jackson's Fault

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This time, the failure's on the bullpen.

Christian Petersen

The Cubs' 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks Friday night cannot be blamed on Edwin Jackson. This game was one of the rare occasions on which he departed with the team leading and no one on base and he was in position for an individual "win" had the bullpen been able to hang on. They weren't, but there were several weird occurrences throughout the game, both before and after the Cubs' pen meltdown.

I'm not sure quite where to start on oddities, so let's talk about the very strange at-bat by Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt against Jackson in the sixth inning, with the Cubs leading 4-2. An 0-2 pitch appeared to go foul off the knob of Goldschmidt's bat. In fact, it had to have been a foul ball, because baseballs that hit hands don't go that far, and players whose hands get hit by baseballs exhibit far more symptoms of pain (even faked pain) than Goldschmidt did.

Instead, Goldschmidt stood there and eventually appeared to ask plate umpire Cory Blaser, "Did that hit me?" (I'm not a good lip-reader, but even I could see that.) The crew chief, first-base umpire Jim Joyce, even started trotting in toward the plate to get involved. There's no way that pitch hit Goldschmidt's hand. After a short time of everyone kind of standing around trying to figure out what had happened, the foul call stood.

Jackson proceeded to get squeezed by Blaser on the next two pitches, either of which could have been called strike three. Goldschmidt deposited the subsequent pitch over the right-field wall to make it 4-3.

If that doesn't happen, does Jackson finish the inning with the Cubs leading 4-2? Probably, since he'd have had two out and no one on base and would have been one out away from a "quality start." As flawed as that stat is, Jackson's had only five of them this year in 20 starts. Instead, James Russell and Brian Schlitter came in and gave up three straight singles, scoring a pair of runs and giving the D'backs the 5-4 lead they would hold for the remainder of the game.

Jackson actually pitched reasonably well and (as shown above) made a nice play tagging Didi Gregorius out at the plate to end the fifth inning after a pitch got away from Welington Castillo, who threw to Jackson covering the plate for the out.

The Cubs actually managed to get the tying run to third base with one out in the ninth (after an idiot fan ran on the field), but Justin Ruggiano (who had stolen second, a pretty bold move, before moving to third on a throwing error) was stranded there when Ryan Sweeney popped up and Castillo was struck out by Addison Reed (22nd save) to end it.

Lost in all this were the two home runs by Anthony Rizzo, both monstrous blasts. The first one, a two-run shot in the fourth, cleared the right-field swimming pool. The second, which gave the Cubs that 4-2 lead that the bullpen squandered, was hit to dead-center field. Rizzo now has 22 home runs, which gave him the National League lead by one over Giancarlo Stanton and Troy Tulowitzki. With 22 homers in 95 games, Rizzo is on pace for 38 and has an outside shot at 40.

Only one Cub lefthanded hitter has ever had a 40-homer season: Billy Williams, who hit 42 in 1970.

That's very, very impressive: Rizzo appears to have arrived as a power hitter in the major leagues, and he won't turn 25 for another three weeks. In the end, the trade of Andrew Cashner for Rizzo is, I believe, going to turn out to be a huge win for the Cubs, and yes, much credit is due to Theo & Co. for bringing Rizzo (who's also beginning to turn into a team leader) to Chicago.

Also still impressive: Arismendy Alcantara, who went hitless but drew a walk, stole a base, scored a run and played solid defense.

The Cubs, meanwhile, still search for ways to win in the house of pain that is Chase Field, where they are 23-41 all-time (including the two playoff losses in 2007). They'll try it again Saturday evening (note the different starting time, 7:10 CT) with Travis Wood taking the mound against Arizona's Wade Miley.