- Doug Padilla, Chicago White Sox beat reporter
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PITTSBURGH – It was a catch then even the fans of the opposing team could appreciate.
The Chicago Cubs’ Brett Jackson delivered one for his permanent highlight reel Friday when he smashed into the chain-link part of the center-field fence in front of the Cubs’ bullpen. Despite being dazed, Jackson held on to the ball to end the sixth inning.
“That was one heck of an effort and a catch at a very crucial time of the game,” manager Dale Sveum said.
Flashing back one inning earlier, Jackson failed to come up with a catch against the padded part of the center field wall after a drive from the Pittsburgh Pirates' Pedro Alvarez. The eventual double was the only hit Cubs starter Travis Wood would give up in his six innings of work.
With two outs in the sixth, Jackson found himself chasing another drive to center, this one from Andrew McCutchen. In a full sprint to the left-field side of center, Jackson made the catch an instant before crashing into the fence.
As Jackson fell to the warning track, members of the bullpen signaled frantically to the training staff on the bench. Jackson eventually got to his feet and walked off the field under his own power. As he got to the Cubs dugout, a number of Pirates fans on the first-base side gave Jackson a standing ovation.
“I was (angry) I missed the first one,” Jackson said. “It was almost inexcusable. You have to catch that ball and I wasn’t going to let another one drop. I was joking with Travis that he couldn’t go nine anyway but he said he would have.”
Despite his head snapping forward as he hit the fence, the young center fielder came away only with a bruised right knee. X-rays were negative.
Afterward Jackson was walking with a severe limp barely able to bend his right knee. Skin was torn off in multiple areas of the knee as it oozed blood. There was even a quarter sized scrape on the right side of his head where he crashed into the fence.
“I did a little inventory check when I was down,” Jackson said. “It’s good, though, it looks like it’s just going to be a pretty bad bruise. I got it right on my kneecap. They were saying that if my foot was down when I hit it, it would have probably blown out my posterior cruciate ligament, but because my foot was in the air the knee was able to bend.”
After a catch like that, Wood wasn’t about to knock Jackson for the one he missed.
“I was excited as can be when he caught it and I was worried as can be because he wasn’t getting up very quick,” Wood said. “But he made an outstanding play. We just played all-around pretty good ball tonight.”
Jackson was the first to approach the subject of the one he missed earlier in the game.
“That’s the first thing he said to me when he got back in the dugout was, ‘I caught that one,’” Wood said.
Jackson might not play again until the Cubs get to Houston, but he has no regrets over going all out.
“That’s the type of player I am; I’ve always been that way,” Jackson said. “I’ll go through a wall for the team. That was a big moment for Travis and for us. We lost six in a row and seven runs didn’t seem like it was enough at the time and we were going to win that game today.
“I don’t really have a second gear. I’m going to go for those balls and I’m sure people will try to tell me to take care of my body but making that play was a little more important than my body at the time.”
Jackson makes one of the best catches of the year. Lucky to avoid serious injury.