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,” said Jackson, who started 12 games for the Cardinals in their 2011 world championship season.
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 has 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.