Cubs shaken early in bid to square final set
Jackson exits with lat discomfort; Rizzo's homer spoils shutout bid
ST. LOUIS -- Edwin Jackson's final start of the season ended sooner than expected.
Jackson was pulled after 2 2/3 innings in the Cubs' 6-2 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday at Busch Stadium because of discomfort in his right side. His only good news is that he'll have a few months to heal.
"It's just a crazy year, man," said Jackson, who took his Major League-leading 18th loss. "If I had the answer, I would've changed a long time ago. It's one of those years where you forget it, but still learn from it. It was a [bad] year to sum it up. There's a lot of things to take from it."
The Cardinals continued to tune up for the postseason. Matt Holliday hit a two-run home run and Yadier Molina drove in two runs off Jackson to back Adam Wainwright in front of 42,520 fans. St. Louis clinched the National League Central title with a 7-0 win on Friday night, and now is battling Atlanta to determine the top seed in the NL playoffs.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said the plan was to have Wainwright go long enough to not only prep for Game 1 of the NL Divisional Series but get the win and be saluted by the fans.
"You want to have some good positive momentum going into his next start, which will be on Thursday," Matheny said. "And we get a bonus that he's efficient, and we can stretch him out for five innings to get him an opportunity to take that 19th win. That's a good day."
The Cubs lost for the 13th time in their last 17 games, and are simply trying to wrap up a disappointing season in which they will finish last in the division.
"We only have nine innings left this year," said Chicago's Anthony Rizzo, who hit his 23rd home run leading off the ninth. "Hopefully, those nine innings get us going and we can go into the offseason on a high note."
The Cardinals didn't take batting practice on Saturday, but it didn't seem to matter. Jon Jay singled with one out in the first and Holliday followed with his 22nd home run and second in as many days.
With one out in the St. Louis third, Jackson walked two batters, and both scored on Molina's double. One out later, Pete Kozma hit a ground-rule double that bounced into the Cubs' bullpen, and Jackson intentionally walked Adron Chambers to face Wainwright, who hit a RBI single.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum and athletic trainer PJ Mainville then went to the mound, and Jackson was pulled after 65 pitches. The right-hander said the problem began during warmups and continued as the game progressed.
"It pretty much sums up how [the season] went," Jackson said. "At the end of the day, I've got three more years to look forward to. I definitely look forward to changing things and turning things around."
It's been a roller coaster ride for Jackson, who was 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA in July, then 0-3 with a 5.97 ERA in August. He joins the Brewers' Wily Peralta as the only pitchers this season with at least 15 losses and 14 quality starts.
"He hasn't had the year he wanted or anything like that but [Travis Wood] has pitched really good and [his record is] under .500," Sveum said. "[Jackson] has kept us in some games. He's been a .500 pitcher his whole career. Obviously, you don't want losses, but at the same time, the games we've been in, we don't seem to win or get a lead."
Since Jackson reported to Mesa, Ariz., for Spring Training, he's been asked about the four-year, $52 million contract he signed with the Cubs, his first long-term deal. Maybe his struggles were related to putting too much pressure on himself with a new team?
"He handles everything really well and he's ready to come back next year and prove himself," Sveum said. "I think a lot of things go into it pressure-wise -- you get a contract like that, you're with a new team. I think next year he'll be a lot more comfortable and settle in and have a good year."
That's the goal, according to Jackson.
"I don't feel like I pressed as far as playing," Jackson said. "There were times when I was over analyzing things and thinking too much, and not allowing myself to go out and do what I'm capable of doing athletically. As far as pressure with the new contract and new team and all that, I didn't feel like there was a lot of pressure.
"When you're not pitching well, it's easy to make excuses and point out things that could be happening," he said. "It's the craziest year I've had in baseball for a long time. You just look forward the working in the offseason and coming back and turning it around."
The Cubs avoided being shut out for a second straight game when they tallied in the ninth against Edward Mujica. Rizzo led off with his first home run since Sept. 13 and second of the month. J.C. Boscan doubled and scored one out later on Donnie Murphy's double.
On Sunday, the Cubs close the 2013 season. The players will head home, and Sveum will find out if he's coming back next year on Monday.
"At the end of the day, the manager can't play for us," Jackson said. "The 25 guys who go on the field, we have to produce and play baseball like we know we can. I think we're capable of doing that. It takes everyone to believe we can win games and go out and play like that."