- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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One night after Samardzija threw a nine-inning gem -- in a 3-1, 12-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox -- Jackson followed it up with arguably his best game as a Cub. The result was yet another loss to the Sox, this time 5-1, but it wasn’t the much-maligned Jackson’s fault.
“Samardzija threw a hell of a game,” Jackson said after his seven innings of one-run ball. “I can’t lie and say that didn’t give me some extra motivation today to come out and follow up that performance with a strong outing. You see a guy go out and bust his butt like that and throw a hell of a game, it gives you confidence the next day to come in and try to follow that up with another great game.”
Jackson did just that, striking out nine without walking a hitter. He used all his pitches, according to his catcher.
“Everything was working,” Welington Castillo said. “Fastball, curveball, slider. He threw a lot of good sliders. He deserved to win the game. Like Samardzija.”
Jackson has been the target of Cubs fans and media since signing a four-year, $52 million deal before last season. His first year in a Cubs uniform was an 8-18 disaster. But he’s gradually thrown better since his second start this year, when he lasted only 4 2/3 innings.
“Maybe he’s more comfortable on the team this year,” Castillo said.
Jackson wouldn’t be the first free agent to need a year to find his way on a new team. There’s little doubt he felt the eyes on him after accepting the largest free agent offer in the Theo Epstein era. Maybe he can come around.
“Making pitches with men in scoring position is the difference between giving up runs and not giving up runs,” Jackson stated.
And maybe a little inspiration from the Cubs inspirational leader can’t hurt. The Cubs must know if they move Samardzija it will create a huge hole in the middle of their clubhouse. He means that much to this team -- on and off the field.
“That’s what winning teams do,” Jackson said. “Pitchers feed off each other from outing to outing.”
That hasn’t always been case since Jackson signed in Chicago. He was the weak link last year.
But if he feels like Monday’s performance by Samardzija helped him on Tuesday, who are we to argue? Salvaging the final two-plus years of his deal is worth any mental game he must play.
“He threw really well,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “You guys have seen him here the last couple of years. Probably one of his better outings.”
A little inspiration never hurts.