CHICAGO -- It’s a matchup the Las Vegas oddsmakers probably haven't seen a lot of action on. According to ESPN Stats & Information, for just the second time since earned runs became an official statistic in 1913, a starter with a sub-2.00 ERA will face one with an ERA of 6.00 or higher with a minimum of 20 starts.
In this case, it’s Edwin Jackson (6.09) of the Chicago Cubs set to face Clayton Kershaw (1.70) of the Los Angeles Dodgers at 1:20 CT Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Another layer to the mismatch is the fact that Kershaw is vying for win No. 20 on the season.
“I think Edwin is looking forward to coming back and pitching tomorrow,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Thursday afternoon. “It just happens to be against Kershaw.”
Talk about bad luck. Jackson (6-14) has had a miserable season, and went on the disabled list with a latissimus strain almost a month to the day before Friday’s start. Now the 31-year-old faces the best in the business as he tries to salvage something before winter settles over the 14-32 mark Jackson has posted in his two seasons in Chicago.
“Clearly it hasn’t been the best couple of years with the organization so far, but like I say, I feel like I still have a lot of upside,” Jackson said. “I have a long career ahead of me.”
But will it be with the Cubs? With Chicago still owing the right-hander $22 million for two more years, Cubs president Theo Epstein intimated last offseason that signing Jackson when the team did could have been a mistake. What must he be thinking now? The Cubs will undoubtedly have to eat a lot of that salary if he’s not on the team.
However, Jackson can’t worry about any of that just yet.
“Any time you come back from an injury, it’s always exciting coming back, regardless of how you were pitching that year,” he said. “I do want to finish up strong. One or two starts. Whatever it may be.”
In the other dugout is a man having a year for the ages. At 19-3, Kershaw has given up just 125 hits in 185⅓ innings pitched. His WHIP is 0.83. Jackson’s is double that. And his ERA ranks last by a wide margin among regular starters. Kershaw’s is first.
“They have a lot of young guys that can hit," the Dodgers left-hander said of the Cubs, "so no game is easy."
A pitcher doesn’t have the success he’s had without taking every opponent seriously. That brings us back to that one previous ERA mismatch. It was the Florida Marlins versus the New York Mets in 1996. Kevin Brown, with a 1.88 ERA, took on Paul Wilson and his 6.19 ERA at Shea Stadium.
The Mets won 6-1.
There is hope for the home team Friday.
“I just want to go out and pitch well no matter who I’m facing,” Jackson said. “We could use the win.”