The last time Edwin Jackson took the mound, he had his worst start of the season against the worst offense in the Major Leagues. On Wednesday, he'll have to try and regroup against the team with the best record in baseball.
The veteran right-hander will toe the rubber for the Cubs in their series finale against Tim Lincecum and the Giants as they conclude their West Coast swing. Last Friday, Jackson gave up eight runs in four innings against the offensively-challenged Padres, falling to 3-4 on the season and causing his ERA to balloon by nearly a run from 3.98 to 4.94.
"I didn't give myself a chance," Jackson said. "It happens. All you can do is keep grinding. I let that game spiral out of control."
Jackson had previously notched three quality starts in a row -- May 6 vs. the White Sox, May 11 vs. Atlanta, May 17 vs. Milwaukee -- in which he gave up just four earned runs across 20 innings and struck out 23 hitters. But he let four runs score in the first inning against San Diego.
"He couldn't control his slider, couldn't command his fastball. Everything was flying open, and he needs to keep the ball down," said Cubs catcher Welington Castillo. "I know he can make the adjustments. He's been throwing pretty well. I expect [Thursday], we'll see the pitcher we saw in the past."
Cubs manager Rick Renteria says Jackson, who memorably walked eight batters in a no-hitter against the Rays in June 2010 while pitching for the D-backs, has to regain his control if he wants to lead Chicago to a series win.
"He needs to attack the strike zone early with his fastball like he did the previous three starts, where he's actually gone in there with some conviction," Renteria said. "Just regroup -- that one [against San Diego] is done. They happen."
Giants: Lincecum looks to keep quality starts coming
Lincecum finds himself in the same spot Jackson did a week ago -- with three consecutive quality starts under his belt.
Also like his counterpart, however, Lincecum has recently struggled with control, tallying 13 walks in those starts. In his last start, Lincecum issued six free passes over six innings and threw just 57 strikes compared to 55 balls. But he allowed just five hits and two runs, as San Francisco went on to beat Minnesota, 6-2.
"You've got to battle when you don't have your best stuff, your best command. And today was just that," Lincecum said after the win. "It's kind of an ugly win, but I'll take it."
After signing a two-year, $35 million deal with San Francisco this offseason, a contract that surprised some due to its high annual salary, Giants fans are likely hoping he can throw together some cleaner starts. Even though Lincecum has experienced a noted drop in fastball velocity over the past several years, his peripheral stats indicate he might be in position to do just that.
Despite holding a 4.55 ERA this season, his K/9 rate is 9.1 -- good for eighth in the National League among qualified starters entering Wednesday's games. That's helped him maintain a 3.97 FIP and 3.48 xFIP, both of which measure what a pitcher's ERA should be independent of the fielding behind him. Even his ERA has rebounded since getting knocked around by the D-backs in his second appearance of the season -- in his last eight starts he's posted a 3.38 ERA.
Cubs: Ruggiano back in lineup
Cubs outfielder Justin Ruggiano returned to the starting lineup Tuesday night after spending more than a month on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Ruggiano went 1-for-4 in the Cubs' 4-0 loss to San Francisco Tuesday night, taking Junior Lake's spot in left field and the No. 2 hole.
Ruggiano was hitting .231/.302/.333 with one home run in 14 games before the injury, which occurred as Ruggiano was chasing a fly ball on April 23, the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field. He's expected to share time with Lake, Nate Schierholtz and Emilio Bonifacio.
In a corresponding move, Ryan Kalish was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. He hit .242/.303/.330 with three doubles and four triples in 39 games for Chicago.
• With an RBI single Tuesday night, Pablo Sandoval extended his career-long RBI streak to seven games. Sandoval has driven in 17 runs in his last 16 games and has raised his batting average 72 points from .167 to his current .239 in his last 20 games.
• Chicago's four-game winning streak at AT&T Park, which had been the Cubs' longest road winning streak against any opponent, was snapped on Tuesday night as a result of the 4-0 loss.