Guillermo Moscoso gave up one run on six hits and struck out seven over seven innings in Iowa’s 4-1 victory over Reno. Dave Sappelt hit a two-run homer and Brett Jackson had two hits and two RBIs. Ian Stewart was 0-for-3 with a walk. Blake Parker picked up his fifth save.
Matt Garza gave up three hits and walked two over 3 1/3 innings in Tennessee’s 5-4 win over Birmingham. Matt Szczur had two hits, two RBIs and two stolen bases, and Christian Villanueva had three hits, including two doubles, and one RBIs. This was Garza’s third rehab start, second with the Smokies, and he threw 66 pitches, 40 for strikes.
Daytona’s doubleheader against Dunedin was canceled because of unplayable field conditions.
Wilson Contreras had three hits, including his fourth home run, to help Kane County beat Clinton, 7-4. Michael Heesch picked up the win, giving up four runs on 12 hits over six innings. Pin-Chieh Chen had two hits.
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
Matt Garza gave up three hits and walked two over 3 1/3 innings Saturday for Double-A Tennessee in his third Minor League rehab start. Garza threw 66 pitches, 40 for strikes, and struck out two. Dale Sveum said the right-hander will make at least one more rehab start for Triple-A Iowa in five days, and then be re-evaluated. Garza is coming back from a strained left lat suffered in mid February during live batting practice. The plan Saturday was to have Garza throw 65-75 pitches. He needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning.
– Carrie Muskat
X-rays were negative of Luis Valbuena’s right hand. He had to leave Saturday’s game after jamming his right pinky finger sliding into third base in the fifth inning. Valbuena wasn’t scheduled to start Sunday against lefty Gio Gonzalez, and would likely be able to pinch hit, Dale Sveum said.
With one out in the fifth against the Nationals, Valbuena doubled to right but was tagged sliding into third trying to stretch his hit. Cody Ransom took over at third base in the sixth. Valbuena was batting .272 with five home runs and 13 RBIs.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs may have taken Ian Stewart off the 40-man roster, but they are hoping the third baseman can get back on track and contribute. Stewart missed all of Spring Training because of a strained left quad suffered in the first intrasquad game, Feb. 21. After his Minor League rehab time ended, Stewart was activated from the disabled list, and then optioned to Triple-A Iowa. In 15 games, he was 4-for-46, while Luis Valbuena has done well playing third for the big league team.
“We’ve been really patient with him,” GM Jed Hoyer said Saturday of Stewart. “Early in the rehab, you take numbers with a grain of salt, but I think later on, I think you’ve got to perform, especially with Valbuena doing what he’s doing. We’d be jumping up and down to get that kind of performance out of a third baseman. Valbuena has earned that job.”
Stewart, though, now seems to be behind Josh Vitters on the Iowa depth chart at third. Hoyer said it would be a “disservice” to not play Vitters, who was the team’s No. 1 Draft pick in 2007.
Does Stewart have a future in the Cubs organization?
“I’m not sure,” Hoyer said. “I hope there is. I do think there’s a lot of talent there. It’s been an unfortunate run with the injuries. He’s a left-handed hitter with power who plays good defense. I hope there’s a future here but at this point, it’s going to be about performance. We want him to perform.”
– Carrie Muskat
GM Jed Hoyer likes how the Nationals have built their team with good Draft picks and smart trades. The Cubs are trying to get there.
“You look at the Reds, you look at the Cardinals, you look at [the Nationals] and we’re not there from a talent standpoint,” Hoyer said Saturday. “Some of these clubs offer a nice blueprint. You look at [the Nationals] as to where they were in ’08, ’09, ’10, and where they are now, and it shows you the value of young talent and they’ve done a nice job mixing veteran guys with that [young] talent. Right now, I want to see us compete with these guys on the field. You look at how they built their team but at some point, I want to beat them.”
The Cubs are in last place in the Central division, and appear headed for another overhaul at the Trade Deadline.
“The things we need to solve offensively are pretty clear,” Hoyer said. “Our starting pitching has been good enough to be a contender. The bullpen has not been, defense has not been … and the offense hasn’t been.”
So, what can the team do?
“We can play better and win a lot more games,” Hoyer said. “We need to win series. We need to win more games to not be in that position.”
The Cubs GM doesn’t want to overhaul the roster again. He’d rather they were in contention.
“We don’t want to be a seller, that’s not a position you want to be in,” Hoyer said. “But if you are in that position, you want to take advantage of it. You hope you’re looking to buy. It’s a lot more fun.”
– Carrie Muskat
* The Cubs have made 30 errors, most in the Major Leagues, and they have led to 19 unearned runs, tied with the Astros for most in the Majors. The Cubs also have committed an error in a season-high seven straight games for the first time since a nine game stretch, July 9-20, 2011.
Cubs pitchers have made eight errors. The Diamondbacks as a team have combined for eight errors.
* So far, 33 of the Cubs’ 35 games (94 percent) have been decided by four runs or less, and 28 of those games (80 percent) have been determined by three runs or less. More than half of the Cubs losses have been by two runs or less.
* Anthony Rizzo is tied for the NL lead and tied for third in the Majors with 19 extra-base hits. The Cubs’ 117 extra base hits lead the NL.
– Carrie Muskat
Brooks Raley gave up eight runs on 11 hits over four innings in Iowa’s 11-1 loss to Colorado Springs. Logan Watkins drove in Iowa’s only run, and stole a base.
Rubi Silva hit a home run but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost, 5-4, to Birmingham. Eric Jokisch gave up five runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. Matt Szczur had two hits and a stolen base, and Christian Villanueva also had two hits.
Daytona’s game vs. Dunedin was suspended in the third inning because of rain and was to resume on Saturday as part of a doubleheader.
Tayler Scott gave up one run on four hits over 5 1/3 innings in Kane County’s 2-1, 10-inning win over Burlington in the first game of a doubleheader. Felix Pena gave up two hits and struck out six over six innings in a 4-1 win in the second game. Rock Shoulders and Bijan Rademacher each homered. For Shoulders, it was his seventh of the season.
The Cubs are scheduled to face hard throwing right-hander Stephen Strasburg on Saturday at Nationals Park. Here’s the lineup:
E. Jackson P
* Starlin Castro was the Cubs’ leadoff man Friday by default.
“It’s just kind of process of elimination, really,” manager Dale Sveum said of his lineup against Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler. “The two choices were him and [Cody] Ransom, and having Ransom in the lineup, hopefully, he’ll hit a home run and I’d like him to do it with somebody on base.”
David DeJesus is the Cubs’ leadoff man against right-handed pitchers and Sveum was using outfielder Dave Sappelt there against left-handers but Sappelt was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Monday after batting .178 in 20 games with the Cubs. The other possibility against southpaw starters is Julio Borbon, Sveum said.
“He’s one of those hitters where he’s going to be the same hitter no matter where you put him in the lineup,” Sveum said of Castro.
Castro was looking forward to the switch.
“I like it,” Castro said. “Wherever he puts me, I’ll do my job.”
* When Kyuji Fujikawa last pitched for the Cubs in mid April, he was the closer. On Friday, the Japanese right-hander was activated from the 15-day disabled list and won’t be used in the late innings, Sveum said.
“We’ll ease him in right now to make sure everything is good — velocity, command, life,” Sveum said. “We’ll ease him into whatever situation, sixth, seventh inning, depending on the score of the game, obviously.”
Said Fujikawa: “Who knows what role I’ll play in? Whatever the manager says, I’ll pitch in that role.”
Fujikawa, 32, has been sidelined since April 13 with a strained right forearm. In five relief appearances with the Cubs before he was injured, Fujikawa was 1-0 with two saves and a 12.46 ERA. He did not like being sidelined.
“I let the team down, so I would like to contribute more,” he said.
* Edwin Jackson caught up with his former teammates on the Nationals prior to Friday’s game. On Saturday, it’ll be all business when the Cubs right-hander faces Washington and Stephen Strasburg.
“It’s going to be fun,” Jackson said. “I get to face 98 [mph] tomorrow. I talked to ‘Stras’ and told him I’ll be ready to swing it. Once the game starts, it’ll be no friends and they’ll be trying to get me and I’ll be trying to get them.”
Jackson signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs in the offseason and enters Saturday’s game 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA.
“It’s been a slow start, to say the least,” he said. “It’s not exactly how I had it envisioned. I feel good mentally, physically. I’m ready to go. I’ll continue to work hard and continue to grind out the season and finish strong.”
* The Cubs traded infielder Alberto Gonzalez to the Yankees for future considerations. Gonzalez made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, primarily to help in the infield while Darwin Barney was on the disabled list. In 11 games with the Cubs, he was 5-for-23 (.217).
– Carrie Muskat