Wandy Rodriguez, Pirates shut down Cubs 3-0
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org April 3, 2013 9:14PM
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (36) delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Wednesday, April 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Updated: April 3, 2013 11:59PM
PITTSBURGH — When the sun goes down in Pittsburgh and the temperature falls into the 30s, what advice does Cubs manager Dale Sveum have for his hitters?
“Punt,” Sveum said with a chuckle before Wednesday night’s game at PNC Park.
He wasn’t laughing after the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in free-agent starter Edwin Jackson’s Cubs debut.
The frigid Cubs have now gone 18 consecutive years without a 2-0 start.
The only consolation for Sveum might have been that the closer controversy that reared its head in Monday’s opener stayed safely in the background on a day the Cubs barely sniffed two hits against Wandy Rodriguez and Co., much less a lead.
“There’s no advice when it comes to cold weather. It’s tough,” said Sveum. “We held them to six hits and three runs. But we haven’t got a hit yet with men in scoring position in two games.”
Of course, it’s a long season. For better or worse.
For his part, Jackson looked sharp out of the chute and seemed to manage the cold until a long fourth inning cost him a chance to go deeper than five innings.
“It wasn’t a bad game. It wasn’t the best game,” Jackson said. “Overall, we didn’t win a game. That’s pretty much the main factor. Whether you pitch well or not, the objective is to win. I like our chances to come out tomorrow and take the series.”
Jackson, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal in January, struck out the first three batters he faced and retired nine of his first 10 until the fourth.
“There’s all kinds of reasons why a guy throws close to 200 innings, if not 200 innings, a year,” Sveum said of Jackson before the game. “One is efficiency, getting into those later innings because of stuff. Obviously, he has the stuff.”
That has always been the upside with Jackson, who has a power arsenal good enough to produce a no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. Yet it hasn’t been enough to produce a season with more than 14 wins.
“I think now it’s time for him to take it to another level with that kind of stuff,” Sveum said.
That was the hope, if not the expectation, in signing the durable Jackson, who doesn’t turn 30 until September.
It wasn’t going to matter on this night, regardless of how deep into the game Jackson pitched.
“Obviously, we didn’t give him the run support, and that’s going to change,’’ said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who survived a scary-looking moment when he was hit high on the shoulder with a pitch that knocked him down leading off the seventh.
Rizzo wound up stranded on third after the Cubs loaded the bases with one out.
The Cubs wound up with only two singles in the game, including a hit up the middle by Alfonso Soriano following Rizzo in the seventh. Alberto Gonzalez had the other one, slapping an opposite-field single to right leading off the third before getting stranded at second.
Jackson didn’t have his best stuff and admitted he would have liked to have stayed in the game.
But Rizzo, for one, already sees the value in the signing of the veteran pitcher for a young, rebuilding team.
“You see him in the dugout, in the clubhouse, the last two months, and he’s one of the guys on this team that you can go over and talk to and he’ll be there, and he’s very positive,” Rizzo said. “I think it’s big for us.”