Edwin Jackson made a grand entrance to his Cubs debut, striking out the side in the first. After the gem tossed by Jeff Samardzija on Opening Day, the mood was set for another dominating appearance by a Cubs starter. In fact, Jackson was cruising through the first go around of the Pirates line up until he fell behind the count 3-0 to pitcher Wandy Rodriguez.
Jackson would battle back to get the Pirates lefty, but the Cubs starter ended up getting tagged for two runs the following inning. E Jax’s box score line was respectable (five innings pitched, three hits and one walk allowed, five strike outs), but it was a bit of a gritty performance by the veteran. There were several instances where Jackson seemed to just not have the prefect feel for his pitches. He spiked at least a couple of fastballs in the dirt and there were a handful of instances where he seemed to be trying to overcompensate his pitches to break to the outside half of the zone.
Unfortunately for E Jax and the North Siders, the Cubs offense was as cold as the 20 degree temperatures in Pittsburgh. The majority of the credit goes to Pirates starter Rodriguez, who had the visiting hitters off balance all night with his curveball and fastball combination. Rodriguez and the Cubs are very familiar with each other from the lefty’s days with the Astros, and the Pirates starter carried over his solid performance for the 2013 WBC champion Dominican Republic into his first start of the MLB season.
Manager Dale Sveum deployed the right handed heavy line up against Rodriguez, with Anthony Rizzo being the lone left handed bat. But the so called lefty killers such as Dave Sappelt and Scott Hairston failed to live up to their reputation, with both going 0 for 3 in their first starts of the season.
The Cubs missed their chance to steal the game late against Rodriguez and the Pirates in the top of the seventh. Rizzo led off the inning with a hit by a pitch scare that thankfully deflected off of his shoulder or upper arm instead of tagging his head. Alfonso Soriano, who has struggled in his career against Rodriguez, gritted out a nine pitch at bat to earn a single. Rodriguez struck out the aforementioned Hairston before he beaned another batter in the form of Welington Castillo to load the bases.
Brent Lillibridge came to the plate and quickly fell behind 0-2 in the count, setting the stage to be torched in the Cubbies Crib comments section of Andrew’s post about the Cub infielder. The third baseman would battle his way back to a full count before getting stunned by a curveball that clipped the top of the strike zone. Alberto Gonzalez would fly out on a full count after going ahead 3-0 to kill the threat. That calculates out to the Cubs offense going 0 for a baker’s dozen with runners in scoring position, this just after two games.
Jason Grilli came on in the ninth for the Pirates and finished off the Cubs, earning his first save of the season. Cubs fans and Cubbies Crib readers will recall that the Cubs were one of the finalists for Grilli’s services this off season, before the veteran righty re signed with Pittsburgh.
The silver lining may be that the Cubs and their fans at least have avoided a Carlos Marmol roller coaster ride for another day. The Cubs have a quick turnaround as the rubber game will be a 11:35 am CST day time affair. The positive way to look at it would be that the North Siders will not have to dwell long on the loss and try to win the series tomorrow.