Cubs swept aside by McCutchen, Pirates


May 23, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher

Edwin Jackson

(36) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This winter, when the Cubs announced the signing of right-hander Edwin Jackson, the Cubs faithful were excited. They looked at him as a dependable arm that could provide much-needed stability this season, after Double-A starters were regularly called up for spot starts in 2012. However, ten starts into his Cubs contract, Jackson has been anything but dependable, as Chicago dropped yet another one of his starts Thursday night at Pittsburgh, falling 4-2 to the Pirates.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen seems to be heating up of late, as he went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in and a stolen base in the winning effort that moved his squad to 29-18 on the season. With the win, Pittsburgh continued their dominant month of May, in which they have posted a 14-6 record. The main question that is in the front of everyone’s mind, though, is whether or not this team can play at a high-level for six straight months. In the past two seasons, the team has fallen off in July, and is yet to post a winning season in the last two decades.

The Bucs hit Jackson early and often. Oft-touted Starling Marte got things started in the bottom of the first with an infield single that Castro knocked down, before stealing second. McCutchen then promptly followed with an RBI single, before himself swiping second with Garrett Jones at the plate. Second baseman Neil Walker drew a base-on-balls, setting the table for Michael McKenry‘s RBI single to make it a 2-0 game.

After retiring the first two batters in the second, Jackson hit another roadblock, in the form of the top of the Pittsburgh order. Marte reached base on his second infield single of the afternoon and came around to score on an RBI triple by Travis Snider, who then scored on another RBI single by McCutchen.

A torrential downpour limited Jackson (1-7) to just three innings of work, but in that limited time, he allowed four earned runs on six hits and one walk, while also notching six strikeouts. With Thursday’s performance in the books, Jackson’s earned run average on the season is at 6.11, and is near seven in the starts he has made that the Cubs lost.

After the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum posed questions about his right-hander’s conviction.

“”It seems to be just not coming out with a lot of conviction early in the game,” Sveum said. “Those are questions and answers, you wish you knew what happened in those situations and why the same guy doesn’t come out all the time.”

Cubs leadoff man David DeJesus doubled to open the Cubs fourth against Pirates starter Jeanmar Gomez. He  then moved up on Starlin Castro‘s single and scored when Rizzo hit into a fielder’s choice. Pinch-hitter  and semi-recent pickup Ryan Sweeney added a two-out, RBI single in the top of the seventh inning to account for the only other run the Cubs offense could muster.

“He obviously wasn’t real sharp,” Sveum said after the game. “He didn’t come out with a whole lot of velocity at the beginning either. McCutchen took advantage of a hanging slider and another fastball as well. There wasn’t a whole lot of life coming out of that arm today.”

UP NEXT: Chicago opens a series against Cincinnati at the Great American Ballpark tonight at 6:10 p.m. Scott Feldman (4-3, 2.19) looks to continue his hot start, and will be opposed by veteran Bronson Arroyo (4-4, 3.28).