Jackson shows signs of life, if briefly

Edwin Jackson had it working through four innings, but the wheels came off fast. AP Photo/Matt York

PHOENIX -- Through the first four innings of Friday's game at Arizona, it appeared Edwin Jackson might have found at least a little bit of that old magic.

To that point, the Chicago Cubs right-hander had faced just one batter over the minimum, threw with good control around the plate, wasn't walking batters and had a good fastball working. He also kept the ball down, and Arizona didn't hit any fly balls during that stretch.

Then came the fifth inning, when the Diamondbacks' Nos. 6 through 9 hitters strung together four consecutive singles and struck for a pair of runs to cut the Cubs' lead to 3-2.

After an Anthony Rizzo home run put Chicago up 4-2 in the top of the sixth, Jackson allowed a solo blast to Paul Goldschmidt with one out in the bottom of the inning. It was apparent that whatever has been working during the first four innings wasn't anymore, and Cubs manager Rick Renteria quickly removed Jackson.

"I thought Jackson threw well enough for us to win the ballgame," Renteria said. "He was very composed and threw the ball hard. He was pretty consistent staying at the top of his velocity chart. He minimized damage and looked confident."

This season, Jackson has averaged fewer than six innings per start, and the Cubs hoped he could chew some up in the first of this three-game set coming out of the All-Star break.

And while it looked for a while as if that would happen, the game got away as fast as Goldschmidt's opposite-field, line-drive blast cleared the right-field fence, chasing the former Diamondback from the mound.

Jackson's line on the night was three runs allowed on seven hits with three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

"I was trying to challenge them, especially when we come out and score four runs, you want to make them put the ball in play, and they were able to do that," Jackson said. "If I could take a couple pitches back and locate them a little better, maybe the results would've been a little better. They're a good hitting lineup in a ballpark where the ball flies."

James Russell and Brian Schlitter followed out of the bullpen, and each allowed a run as Arizona took a 5-4 lead after six, a lead that would stand as the final margin.

"I had those guys ready for [Jackson]," Renteria said "Had he gotten into any trouble, I was going to get him. I thought he did his job. He kept us in the ballgame."

Pitching figures to be a weakness for the Cubs for the remainder of the season following the trade of starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4 -- a fact which only amplifies the need for the staff to protect three-run leads.

But at this point the Cubs are looking to the future, and glimpses of the pitching help that is on the way could be seen at Wrigley Field sooner than later.