Edwin Jackson boiled baseball down to its essence Sunday.
After all, it's a game, and it should be fun, right?
Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; WGN Tuesday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Scott Feldman (5-4) vs. Homer Bailey (3-4) Monday at 7:05 p.m.; Matt Garza (1-0) vs. TBD Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.; Travis Wood (5-4) vs. Mike Leake (5-3) Wednesday at 1:20 p.m.; Jeff Samardzija (3-7) vs. Mat Latos (6-0) Thursday at 1:20 p.m.
At a glance: The Cubs are 2-7 against the Reds this year, 0-3 at Wrigley Field. The Reds swept a series at Wrigley in early May. Cincinnati entered Sunday night's game against the Cardinals 22-10 at home but just 15-15 on the road. Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo are 1-2 in the National League in walks and on-base percentage. Votto, Choo and Jay Bruce each had 10 homers entering Sunday. Ex-Cubs reliever Sean Marshall is on the DL with a shoulder sprain. The Reds ranked fourth in the NL in ERA (3.40) while the Cubs were eighth (3.87).
Next: New York Mets at Citi Field, Friday-Sunday
-- Bruce Miles
Until Sunday's season-long 7-inning performance in the Cubs' 4-1 victory over the Pirates, things hadn't been too much fun for Jackson, whom the Cubs signed to a four-year, $52 million contract in the off-season.
"Today, I just told myself to come out and have fun," said Jackson, who won his second decision against 8 losses and lowered his ERA from 6.29 to 5.76 by giving up 4 hits and 1 run. "Whatever happens, let it happen having fun. Stay relaxed. Stay loose. And just play the game. Sometimes we take the game too serious and being kind of confined in a bubble.
"Today, I was able to come out of that bubble and have some fun out there."
The obvious question was whether season hadn't been any fun for Jackson until this point. He wouldn't go quite that far.
"It's not necessarily having fun, but maybe taking it too serious," he said. "That's probably the way to describe it. It is a game, but sometimes you get a tendency to take it too serious and get too confined and too locked up and tight. It's hard to go out and relax and have fun."
It's been kind of a hard-luck season for Jackson, who had been seeing batted balls find the holes in the Cubs' defense in previous starts. According to Cubs manager Dale Sveum, Jackson also needed to throw with more "conviction."
It all came together Sunday. Hard-hit balls early in the game found gloves, and the Cubs offense awoke just in time after being no-hit for 52⁄3 innings by Pirates lefty Jeff Locke.
"Besides the rainout in Chicago (at the White Sox), when he came out with that kind of velocity, to have that velocity the whole game and throw with conviction and have the slider at 86-88 (mph), that's where he's got to be to pitch, whether it's 5 innings or 7 innings," Sveum said. "You're a 'stuff' guy. Go out there with that kind of conviction and that kind of velocity and see what happens."
Another guy who had some fun was third baseman Cody Ransom, a journeyman who has played with eight big-league teams since 2001.
It was an adventurously fun day for him. He was picked off second base to end the third inning, when the Cubs had runners at first and second with two outs. In the sixth, he smartly went from first to third on Anthony Rizzo's groundout to first, as the Pirates' defense had shifted to the right side. Ransom scored on Scott Hairston's sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1, right before Dioner Navarro singled for the Cubs' first hit.
In the seventh, he hit a 3-run homer off reliever Justin Wilson. Ransom was more than willing to talk about the bad and the good.
"I just got picked off," he said. "I was watching (Locke's) grip, honestly. He was gripping a knuckle-curve, and I didn't know he could pick off from that. I got a little greedy, got a little big and got picked off. It's not a very good play, but it worked out later in the game, I guess."
The home run was the sixth of the year for Ransom, who has played in 28 games since the Cubs picked him up off waivers from the Padres on April 16.
"BP (batting practice), early work, all that stuff," he said of how he stays prepared. "During batting practice, take your groundballs and take meaningful batting practice, not just (being) out there swinging at whatever. Our hitting coaches and coaching staff do a great job of keeping us ready. It's kind of what I've done my whole career. I've had a few years of getting used to it."