Back on Tuesday, when Edwin Jackson was plowing his way through 105 pitches in just four innings, my group in the bleachers was trying to decide what human endeavor would be more painful than watching a Jackson start. After careful consideration we decided the answer was "having kidney stones" -- I've never had them, but have heard from friends who have that they are, in fact, intensely painful. I feel for you if you've had them, and I feel for all of us for having to watch all these Edwin Jackson outings, which have almost without exception been painful in a baseball sense...
... until Sunday afternoon, when Jackson threw only one fewer pitch than he had Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But this time, he took two more innings to do it and allowed just two runs, one of them just before he ended the sixth inning (a Matt Kemp home run). That gave Jackson a "quality start," and we all know how flawed that stat is -- but Jackson has had just seven of those in 23 outings this year, so despite the pitch count, he did his job Sunday afternoon and put his team in a position to win when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. Despite all the pitches he didn't walk anyone, just the third time this season he's accomplished this.
Jackson also contributed to the Cubs' 7-3 victory over the Dodgers with two hits, a single and a double, and he scored a run on Chris Coghlan's sixth homer of the season, which proved to be the blow that produced the decisive runs in the game. For Jackson, not a good hitter (39-for-242, .139, prior to Sunday's game), it was just the fifth time in his career he'd had more than one hit in a game, and just the third double of his career (second this season). This is another good argument for the DH, in case you were wondering. Do you really enjoy seeing "hitters" like this? I don't. Even with the two hits Sunday, Jackson is 10-for-89 (.112) as a Cub with 36 strikeouts.
The Cubs' defense, maybe more than their pitching, helped win this game. Arismendy Alcantara made an outstanding play with one out in the bottom of the second inning:
And Anthony Rizzo made a terrific leaping grab of a line drive off the bat of Carl Crawford with one out in the seventh and doubled Drew Butera off second base to end the inning:
Then Dodgers reliever Brandon League walked the bases loaded and a John Baker groundout made it 4-2; Starlin Castro, who didn't start the game, for the first time in 2014, pinch-hit in the eighth inning and singled in a pair to help put the game away. The appearance continues Castro's consecutive-games-played streak, now at 196. That might not seem like many, but most players simply don't do that anymore. The current active leader for consecutive games played is the Giants' Hunter Pence with 282. The removal of Castro for pinch-runner Travis Wood wasn't for any problem, either:
#Cubs Castro is fine. Just lifted for pinch-runner to enjoy the rest of his day off— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 3, 2014
Luis Valbuena completed the Cubs' scoring with a ninth-inning homer, his 10th, two short of his career high set last year. The Cubs also drew a season-high nine walks.
I remain at at a loss to understand Rick Renteria's bullpen management. Carlos Villanueva was called on for the second straight day. OK, so he threw only one pitch Saturday night, that's probably OK. Still, where's Chris Rusin? Did they accidentally forget to take him on the team plane? And why use Pedro Strop again? In the end it didn't really matter because of the eighth-inning rally, but still.
Coming off this first road series win since Boston, the Cubs have Monday off -- stick around, we'll have plenty to talk about here at BCB -- before continuing the road trip in Denver Tuesday evening against the Colorado Rockies. Travis Wood will face Brett Anderson. And with any luck, the Cubs can get that one in under three hours, something they've managed to do just three times in their last 13 games (and just barely in one of them at 2:59).