Bats unable to back Jackson's effective start
Righty allows three runs over six, but offensive woes continue
ATLANTA -- For the third straight game, the Cubs didn't capitalize on a quality start. Edwin Jackson gave up only three runs in six innings, but took a hard-luck loss as the Cubs fell to the Braves, 5-2, on a sunny Mother's Day afternoon at Turner Field.
Evan Gattis put Atlanta ahead for good with a leadoff homer in the fourth, and Jason Heyward padded the lead with a two-run shot off James Russell in the seventh.
Stymied by an unproductive offense, Chicago has lost six of its past seven. The Cubs' 12-5 win against the White Sox on Thursday accounts for nearly half of the 25 runs they have scored in the past seven days.
"Are these guys the final product? No. That's my answer," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "These players are not the final product. There's a lot of skill in these guys and they're just not completely there yet. They're chipping away.
"That's the whole beauty of the process. The reality is I have to keep and understand perspective and understand their skill set and know that they're still chipping away and helping them hopefully become the players we all want them to be."
Nate Schierholtz provided a two-run double on a day that saw the Cubs unable to come through in multiple run-scoring opportunities. Chicago put a man on base in seven of the first eight innings, racking up eight hits in all.
However, a 1-for-8 showing with runners in scoring position and a 4-for-19 line with men on base sunk the Cubs as they fell 12 games below .500.
"We've got to do a better job understanding the situation and not getting ourselves where we're too excited. Kind of take the emotion out of it a little bit," Renteria said. "[Hitting coach Bill Mueller] and [assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley] actually talk to the players a lot about trying to take the emotion out of it, slow the game down, but it's still a process and I think obviously we haven't gotten where we need to be."
Jackson's outing marked Chicago's 21st quality start in 36 games. Cubs starters have only earned six individual victories in those 21 games despite posting a 2.06 ERA.
The Cubs never trailed by more than two with Jackson on the mound.
"You just want to keep your team close," Jackson said. "It was a battle today and it wasn't the best, it wasn't the worst, but when I did make a mistake, they did make me pay with the long double and the home run."
The right-hander made a few mistakes, but he managed to work his way out of trouble in every inning but the two-run second. He walked Gattis to lead off the inning before giving up singles to Chris Johnson and Ryan Doumit, whose base hit scored a run.
Andrelton Simmons delivered the big hit of the frame with an RBI double, increasing Atlanta's lead to2-0. The Braves' lead was short-lived as Schierholtz's RBI double in the fourth tied the game. But that, too, was short-lived.
Jackson's biggest mistake came against Gattis, who homered on a first-pitch fastball in the fourth. The solo shot not only gave the Braves their second lead of the day, but it was only the second homer allowed by Jackson in the past 47 1/3 innings.
"It was one of those games that two balls I got hurt on were balls up and over the middle and balls that should be hit," Jackson said. "I've got to do a better job of getting ahead earlier in the count and working down."
Atlanta starter Aaron Harang earned the victory, striking out nine and working out of multiple jams in six strong innings. Perhaps his most significant feat was quickly snuffing out arguably the Cubs' best offensive inning of the series.
Anthony Rizzo drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a Starlin Castro double. Schierholtz followed with his two-run double.
Harang then slammed the door, fanning Welington Castillo, Mike Olt and Darwin Barney to begin a streak that saw him retire nine of the final 10 batters he faced.
"They've got a young, aggressive team over there and I think I was able to take a little bit advantage of that, knowing how aggressive they are," Harang said.
Gattis added: "Luckily we got guys to strike out to minimize damage. They just didn't put the ball in play."
The Cubs nearly got to Harang early when Ryan Kalish led off the game with a single. Renteria called for a hit-and-run, but Chris Coghlan smacked a line drive right to Johnson at third base, resulting in an easy 5-3 double play.
"We're in motion and we hit a bullet at the third baseman -- double play right there," Renteria said. "We were trying to get something going right away."
At the end of his postgame news conference, Renteria pointed to Atlanta's half of the lineup card -- a batting order that features a slew of young players who won the National League East last season and played October baseball.
"A lot of these guys didn't become who they are immediately," Renteria said. "It took a little time."