5/11 Cubs 8, Nationals 2
Edwin Jackson pitched the way the Cubs had hoped, but it was his two-run double that provided the spark the team needed Saturday. Jackson, Anthony Rizzo, and David DeJesus each drove in two runs to lift the Cubs to an 8-2 victory over the Nationals and even the series.
The Cubs weren’t sure if Jackson’s struggles in his first seven starts were because he was feeling some pressure after signing his first long-term contract. The right-hander, who received a four-year, $52 million contract this offseason, has played for eight different teams, including the Nationals last season, and likes to joke about how easy it is for him to make friends. But going 0-5 to open the season was a concern.
“It is a natural emotion when you get a contract to try to do much more than you’re capable of doing instead of just being yourself,” Dale Sveum said. “Hopefully, those kind of things are going away. He just needs to be Edwin Jackson and not worry about how much money he’s making.”
Jackson did exactly what he needed to do, and joked after the game he was going to give himself a celebratory beer shower.
“It was definitely nice to get the monkey off my back to come out and help contribute to a team win,” Jackson said.
It was a big monkey.
“It felt like the same size as me, that I was carrying double,” Jackson said. “When things are going bad, you can either fold and collapse or you can continue to work hard and climb your way out of a hole.”
Said Rizzo: “You couldn’t tell he was 0-5, and that’s the ultimate pro. He comes in and does his work and he’s a great teammate, and great clubhouse guy.”
With two outs in the Cubs fifth, Welington Castillo reached on a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman. Darwin Barney then walked, and both he and Castillo scored on Jackson’s double, his first hit in 12 at-bats this year.
“That was probably the difference in the whole ballgame,” Sveum said of Jackson’s hit. “If Strasburg punches him out there, it’s a whole different ballgame. Those kind of guys settle in and it’s a shutout and you’re battling the rest of the game.”
Jackson had joked with some of his former Nats teammates on Friday that he was looking forward to facing Strasburg. How did he approach the at-bat?
“It was 3-2 [in the count], I was looking for something I could hit hard,” Jackson said. “He’s throwing 96, 97, 98 [mph], and I’d been missing the whole game, and I told myself to relax and find something I could make contact with.
“You saw how he made me look the first [at-bat],” Jackson said of a strikeout in the third. “Fastball, fastball, than, whoo, slider and kind of froze me. I felt when it was 3-2, he was going to try to come at me — he doesn’t want to walk a pitcher — and I got a pitch I could drive.”
Strasburg then walked DeJesus, and Starlin Castro was safe on an infield hit to load the bases for Rizzo, who hit a two-run single. Rizzo ended the inning when he was caught trying to steal second.
– Carrie Muskat