Braves clinch NL East at Wrigley as Cubs reflect on poor ’13
BY TONI GINNETTI Staff Reporter September 22, 2013 8:33PM
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 22: The Atlanta Braves celebrate their National League East Championship on September 22, 2013 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Atlanta Braves defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-2 to clinch the National League East Championship. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
PIRATES AT CUBS
The facts: 7:20 p.m., CSN,
The pitchers: Charlie Morton
(7-4, 3.35 ERA) vs. Jeff
Samardzija (8-12, 4.42).
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Tuesday: 7:05 p.m., CSN,
720-AM, 1200-AM. Gerrit Cole (9-7, 3.23) vs. Chris Rusin
Wednesday: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9,
720-AM. Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.88) vs. Jake Arrieta (3-2, 3.94).
Updated: September 23, 2013 8:24PM
The Wrigley Field visitor’s clubhouse has seen enough celebrating in the last 10 years to live up to the ``Friendly Confines’’ label.
All of it adds to the sorrow of the home team and its fans.
Sunday’s celebration by the Atlanta Braves as they clinched the National League East title might not have been as painful as those of the past, with the Cubs mere bystanders. But the implication was the same.
``I think any time it’s late in the year and your team is out of it, there’s a self-awareness of what’s going on in the league and what these games mean to everyone else,’’ Darwin Barney said this week.
``We’re a team that’s nowhere near where we want to be and we’re in the best division in baseball right now. So put those together and it’s a formula for a rough year.
``For a lot of us here, we’re tinkering and getting ourselves ready for our game plan in the off season to come back and be successful next year.’’
That will be especially true for pitcher Edwin Jackson, the only free agent signing of last off-season and the pitcher who has struggled the most.
His record fell to 8-17 after Sunday’s 5-2 Braves victory, the most losses for a Cubs pitcher since 1999 when Steve Trachsel lost 18.
But Jackson, who has three years remaining on his contract, had better command Sunday than the outcome might have indicated.
``I feel I got beat with two pitches today, and more so the slider,’’ he said of a two-run homer by Freddie Freeman in the first and solo homer in the fourth by Andrelton Simmons.
``It’s tough to pay attention to win-loss records,’’ said Jackson, who gets one more start in the final series of the season in St. Louis. ``You could be the best pitcher and not have a good win-loss record.’’
Jackson knows that isn’t the case for him this season. But some of the losses hurt more than others.
``It’s the games you gave away you look back on, the losses that were terrible or that you don’t give your team a chance to win,’’ he said.
Jackson showed more on Sunday of what manager Dale Sveum said he needs to have to succeed.
``I thought he had one of his better games. He threw his curveball today and had a really good slider and command of the fastball,’’ he said. ``The key for him is being able to throw all four pitches, and he did that today. A two-run homer and Simmons’ homer were the only hard contact off him.’’
Sveum often says that players live up to their ``media guide’’ numbers by the end of a season, and that is even true of Jackson in some categories.
The Cubs wanted him because he has been durable through his career, and he has been that this year.
He made his 30th start on Sunday, making it seven straight years of at least 30 starts. He is one of only five pitchers to reach 30 starts for that long, joining Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo, Toronto’s Mark Buehrle, Kansas City’s James Shields and Detroit’s Justin Verlander.
He recorded his 1,100th career strikeout in the first inning, and pitched into the seventh giving up three runs on eight hits and striking out six.
But he knows there is work to do in the off-season.
``The idea is just [getting] consistency,’’ he said. ``Work on a consistent delivery to help you throw strikes. I’ll work hard as I do every off-season to come back in spring training and try to turn things around.
``It’s been a tough year for a lot of people, especially myself, but you learn from it. What doesn’t kill you definitely makes you stronger.’’
CONTRIBUTING: Gordon Wittenmyer