WASHINGTON – A day before facing each other as opposing starting pitchers, Edwin Jackson and Stephen Strasburg spent some time chatting as former teammates.
“Told him I’d be ready for the gas he’s throwing,” Jackson recounted.
Easy to joke around after the way Jackson finally picked up his first win of 2013 – and first win under the $52 million, four-year contract that took him from the Washington Nationals to the Cubs.
Jackson retired 12 of Washington’s first 13 batters while pitching into the sixth inning Saturday, and hit a two-run double off Strasburg for good measure, leading the Cubs to an 8-2 victory that ended the Nationals’ five-game winning streak.
The game was scoreless with two outs in the fifth when one of Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s two errors gave the Cubs a base runner.
Strasburg followed with his first walk, to No. 8 hitter Darwin Barney, he of the .160 batting average. Then up came Jackson, 0 for 10 at the plate with zero RBIs this season until that point.
“If Strasburg punches him out there,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, “it’s a whole different ballgame.”
But with the count full, Jackson delivered his double to right-center to make it 2-0.
“I figured he was going to try and come at me because he doesn’t want to walk a pitcher,” said Jackson (1-5), who gave up two runs over 51/3 innings. “I just got a pitch that I could drive.”
Unraveling en route to dropping a fifth consecutive decision, Strasburg (1-5) walked another batter and gave up Starlin Castro’s single to load the bases.
Anthony Rizzo grounded a single up the middle, the ball bounding into center to score two more runs. Instead of backing up home plate on the play, Strasburg ambled around on the infield grass and looked into the dugout.
All four runs were unearned, and Strasburg’s ERA actually dipped to 3.10.
David DeJesus’ two-run single was the highlight as the Cubs scored four more in the sixth against reliever Zach Duke. Washington’s lone lefty in the bullpen got only two outs and gave up four hits and a wild pitch. He also hit a batter.
Sveum thought Jackson’s performance dipped because he sat in the dugout during the long top of the fifth and sixth, while the Cubs were scoring all of their runs.
For Jackson, the fact that his first win this season came against the team he played for a year ago didn’t really matter at all.
What really meant something was to get that win.
“It was definitely nice to get that monkey off my back. ... It felt about the same size as me,” Jackson said. “When things are going bad you can fold and collapse or you can continue to work hard and climb your way out of the hole.”
NOTES: In the eighth, Cubs 1B Rizzo made a juggling catch of Zimmerman’s popup to shallow right, tumbling head-over-heels and barely avoiding a collision with a teammate. “It will be fun to watch that over,” Rizzo said. “It was like it was in slow motion. ... My gymnastics skills took over.” ... Cubs RHP Matt Garza, who hasn’t appeared in the majors since last July, threw 66 pitches over 3 1-3 scoreless innings in a rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee. He struck out two and walked two against Birmingham and made a diving catch of a bunt attempt. This was his third minor league start as he works his way back from a back muscle injury in spring training; his 2012 season was cut short by an elbow injury. ... Chicago 3B Luis Valbuena left in the fifth inning after injuring his right pinky finger while getting thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. Sveum said X-rays showed the finger wasn’t broken and that Valbuena is day to day. He was going to get Sunday off, anyway. ... In Sunday’s series finale, Cubs RHP Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.70) will face Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.97 ERA).