Game 1 was a frustrating one. The Cardinals scored enough runs on Zack Greinke to win but Jaime Garcia allowed enough runs so that it didn't matter. Garcia was aided and abetted in the losing by Octavio Dotel, who allowed a two-run home run to Yuniesky Bentancourt of all people, and Kyle McClellan, who turned in the type of meatball-serving performance that has come to define his 2011 season. The Cardinals find themselves in a familiar position: down but not out.
Most recently the Cardinals were down but not out after the pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS, a game that seemingly swung the momentum of the series to the Phillies. Down 2-1 in the best-of-five series, the Cardinals turned to Edwin Jackson. After a rocky first inning, Jackson was able to stymie the Phillies bats. Thanks to timely hitting and solid relieving the Cardinals held on to win the game to force the decisive Game 5 that apparently made the only Cardinal playoff legend in franchise history.
To Jackson the Cardinals again turn.
Jackson wound up in a Cardinals uniform as a part of the Rasmus trade, a still contentious personnel move that shipped out the young center fielder for Marc Rzepczynski and a series of rentals to fortify the pitching staff for a playoff run. Jackson was one of those rentals. The playoff run is on.
Jackson put up impressive numbers for the White Sox in the DH league. He posted a K/9 of 7.18 and a BB/9 of 2.88, numbers that contributed to a 3.92 ERA despite a FIP of just 3.25 and an xFIP of 3.54. There was every reason to see his numbers even out and become all the more impressive with his move from the American League to National League where he would be coached by pitching savant Dave Duncan.
Jackson has not exactly thrived under Duncan in a league without designated hitters. Jackson's K/9 fell precipitously from 7.18 to a measly 5.88--which, while horrible, is still better than the 4.83 McClellan has managed as both starter and reliever this season. Ironically Jackson's GB rate has also fallen precipitously, from 46.9% during his time in Chicago to 39.1% with the Cardinals. Whereas his ERA was a bit unlucky with the White Sox, it has been lucky with the Cardinals. In St. Louis Jackson has posted a 3.58 ERA despite a 4.01 FIP and 4.03 xFIP. His transformation from Chicago to St. Louis is somewhat confounding.
Jackson has struck out fewer batters as a Cardinal, induced far fewer grounders, and more line drives. His tERA has predictably shot up, from 4.23 as a Sock to 5.20 as a Card. This is a turn of events that is worrisome as E-Jax prepares to the take the ball in Milwaukee for Game 2 against an offense that has had no problems putting up healthy offensive numbers in Miller Park.
Despite the turbulent statistical undercurrent to his overall line with St. Louis Jackson has largely experienced positive results as a Cardinals. He faced the Brew Crew three times, with two good results and one brutal thrashing. The thrashing occurred in his first start against Milwaukee which occurred shortly after his acquisition. It was the rubber match of a three-game series at Miller Park after La Russa leaned heavily on his relief corps in the first two games. Jackson got shelled but there was no relief for the righty; his start turned into a Marquis special. With the game well out of hand Jackson ate innings and surrendered runs. His final line was brutal: 7.0 IP, 14 H, 10 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO, 4 HR.
Jackson's very next start was again versus the Brewers. He demonstrated a short memory, bouncing back with a solid outing: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, 1 HR. The Cardinals lost the game 5-3. In the dusk of August Jackson turned in his best start as a Cardinal and it was against Milwaukee: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO.
There is no debating that these are but a small sample of Jackson as a pitcher; nonetheless, they offer a window into the potential outcomes on this day in October. With his worrisome peripherals Jackson could very well be slugged out of the game, the victim of a quick hook the manager did not afford him back on August 3. Then again, a smoke-and-mirrors performance in the Duncanian style a la August 30 is entirely possible as well. Most likely, however, seems to be the middle type of performance, one not unlike his Game 4 outing against the Phillies. Around six innings, about three runs allowed, and a chance for the Cards' bats and bullpen to win the game.
The Cardinals traded away their once-annointed center fielder of the future to bolster a pitching staff with Jackson, Dotel, and Rzepczynski for a 2011 playoff run. It was proclaimed a success by some after the trio's performance in Game 4 of the NLDS. The test awaiting Jackson and his comrades in Milwaukee tonight is a stiffer one with higher stakes that could forever shape popular perception of a trade that will likely remain controversial long after the last out of the 2011 World Series is recorded. It was a trade made with the aim of winning now. For the second time in as many starts the Redbirds find themselves turning to Jackson in a "must-win" game. Win now indeed.