After a rough start to the month, the Chicago Cubs are starting to turn things around.
So is scheduled starter Edwin Jackson , who goes for his third straight victory Wednesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs (29-40) opened June with eight losses in 10 games, but have since won four of six behind a starting rotation that has posted a 2.61 ERA. The starters have recorded quality starts in each of the last five.
Jackson (3-8, 5.40 ERA) has also emerged from an early season slump. Through his first 11 starts, Jackson was 1-8 with a 6.29 ERA - the worst in the majors on June 2. The right-hander, however, is finally starting to live up to the big contract Chicago gave him in the offseason, yielding two runs while striking out 15 over 13 innings in winning each of his last two starts. He allowed a run and five hits in six innings in Friday's 6-3 victory over the New York Mets ."Just trying to get in a rhythm," Jackson said.
The Cubs, who pounced on Adam Wainwright for four runs in the top of the first in a 4-2 victory Tuesday, will hope to do the same for Jackson. The last time Jackson pitched, they gave him a 5-0 cushion heading into the bottom of the second."You get those early runs, it's definitely a luxury," Jackson said. "More times than not it's going to be a close game. You've got to pitch mistake-free, or pretty close to it. But when you come out and get an offensive explosion, it's definitely great."
Jackson has been at his best away from Wrigley Field this season, recording a 3.73 ERA in six road starts. His 6.69 home ERA is second-worst in the majors.
He was hit hard in his last outing at Busch Stadium, however, getting tagged for nine runs in 1 1-3 innings last September.
Jackson has also been at a loss when it comes to the red-hot Yadier Molina . The Cardinals catcher is 8 for 12 with two home runs in their matchups. Then again, Molina has had success against pretty much everyone this season, batting .449 with 12 doubles and 17 RBIs in his last 21 games to raise his average 38 points to .367. He has always done particularly well against the Cubs, going 9 for 15 in the season series and is hitting .366 against them since 2011.
His batterymate, Jake Westbrook (2-2, 2.05), got off to a sensational start, posting a 1.62 ERA in his first six outings, but struggled in his return from the disabled list Friday. In his first outing since May 8 because of right elbow inflammation, Westbrook surrendered five runs and eight hits in five innings of a 5-4 loss to Miami.
The veteran right-hander failed to strike out a single hitter, and averages 3.89 strikeouts per nine innings, which would be one of the lowest rates in the majors if he had enough innings to qualify.
Westbrook has made up for such strikeout woes by avoiding the long ball. He has yet to surrender a home run in 44 innings - the only pitcher without serving up a homer with at least that many innings pitched.
David DeJesus is the only player on the Cubs roster with a homer against Westbrook. He's got one in 35 at-bats.
Alfonso Soriano is 3 for 30 against Westbrook without a single extra-base hit. It marks the most at-bats Soriano has ever had against a pitcher without recording an extra-base hit.
|June 15, 2013||David DeJesus||15-Day DL||Right shoulder sprain|
|June 14, 2013||David DeJesus||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right shoulder|
|June 12, 2013||Zach Putnam||15-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|June 11, 2013||Zach Putnam||Day-to-Day||Left game - Undisclosed injury|
|May 27, 2013||Kyuji Fujikawa||60-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|May 27, 2013||Rafael Dolis||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|May 21, 2013||Fernando Salas||15-Day DL||Right shoulder irritation|
|May 18, 2013||Jaime Garcia||60-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|May 09, 2013||Jake Westbrook||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina leads the National League in batting and has put himself in the early discussion for MVP honors, at least in the eyes of St. Louis right-hander Jake Westbrook .
Molina hit his fifth home run and Westbrook pitched seven innings of two-hit ball in the St. Louis Cardinals' 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night. Molina said the blast was somewhat of a surprise to him.
"Sometimes you get lucky," he said. "That was lucky."
Westbrook (3-2) worked around trouble almost the entire night in his second start since coming off the disabled list with a sore elbow. He gave up no earned runs, striking out two and walking three.
Edward Mujica pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 21st save in 21 attempts.
Westbrook said if he voted for MVP, his battery mate would get the nod.
"With the way he's been hitting, but more importantly the way he's handled us as a staff and the way we've been pitching," Westbrook said. "He, in my mind, is the reason for that."
Molina is hitting .365 and is pulling away from the field. Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki , who is on the disabled list, is second at .347. Molina is just outside of the top 10 in RBIs (41). He's also guides a Cardinals pitching staff that has the major leagues' second-best ERA (3.28).
Edwin Jackson (3-9) was pulled after he hit Jon Jay following Molina's blast to left field. He pitched 5 1-3 innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits. He struck out one and walked two.
He was going for his third consecutive victory and was pleased with his performance. He wasn't even unhappy with the ball that Molina homered on.
"I thought it was a pretty good pitch, but either he was looking for it or he guessed right or it was right in his zone," Jackson said. "Either way, he hit it for a home run. But I threw my pitch with conviction and it was the pitch I wanted to throw. Sometimes it happens in a game."
Allen Craig reached in the fifth after second baseman's Darwin Barney 's throw on the back end of a double-play attempt went to the Cardinals dugout. Molina drove a 1-2 pitch just over the outfield wall to improve to 9 for 15 with three homers against Jackson.
Jay went to third on a hit-and-run with Daniel Descalso singling to right and scored on a hit from Pete Kozma to give St. Louis a 4-1 lead.
Westbrook retired the Cubs in order in the first and seventh innings, allowing at least one runner to reach in the five innings between. He faced the minimum in three of those five innings. Two runners were erased on inning-ending double plays and Luis Valbuena was caught stealing on a pitch out for the first out of the third.
"He was good," Molina said of Westbrook. "That sinker was moving a lot."
Westbrook lasted just five innings in his return Friday at Miami. He gave up five runs (three earned) on eight hits in a loss.
"I felt good," Westbrook said. "I was throwing a really good sinker, tonight. I was locating it a lot better than the last start."
Anthony Rizzo opened the second with a single and went to third when second baseman Matt Carpenter 's throw to start a potential double play sailed over the Kozma's head and into leftfield. Rizzo tagged up on a sacrifice fly from Barney and scored after knocking the ball out of Molina's glove.
Carpenter singled to start the first and scored on Craig's hit to center.
NOTES: The Cardinals earned at least a split of the four-game series. ... Jackson's exit with one out in the fifth snapped a five-game streak in which the Cubs' rotation recorded a quality start and a seven-game stretch in which it went at least six innings. ... Craig is hitting .431 with runners in scoring position. ... Rizzo's single in the second ended a 0-10 streak. ... Molina was assessed with his third error of the year for dropping the ball in the second and allowing Ryan Sweeney and Welington Castillo to advance. He had three all of last season. ... Major League Baseball made two scoring changes from the Cardinals' game June 11 at the New York Mets . It rewarded Molina a double rather than an error as originally scored and changed an error assessed to 3B David Freese to a hit for David Wright .