CHICAGO (WSAU-TSN) Edwin Jackson struck out 11 in seven stellar innings to help the Chicago Cubs blank the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-0, and even this three-game set from Wrigley Field.
Jackson (3-3) dazzled for Chicago, which had lost three straight. He yielded just four hits with one walk in matching his season-high in innings pitched, while posting his most strikeouts in a game since fanning 11 against the New York Mets on Aug. 18, 2012.
Neil Ramirez struck out two in a perfect eighth inning for Chicago and Hector Rondon needed just eight pitches in the ninth to nail down his fourth save.
The Cubs also spoiled the return to Wrigley for Milwaukee starter Matt Garza (2-4), who compiled a 21-18 record with a 3.45 ERA in three seasons in Chicago. Garza struck out seven but allowed three runs on four hits to absorb the loss.
The Cubs did all of their damage in the first inning, and it was all Jackson and his relievers would need.
"We were able to come out and get some early runs on the board," said Jackson. "When we got that lead all I was thinking was to hold the lead, have fun, relax and just hold it."
Starlin Castro greeted Garza with an RBI double off the top of the wall in right-center to boost Chicago to an early 1-0 lead. Emilio Bonifacio led off with a bunt single, moved to second on Chris Coghlan's sacrifice bunt and took third on Anthony Rizzo's groundout before Castro scored him with a two-bagger that fell inches short of clearing the wall.
After Nate Schierholtz walked, Welington Castillo plated a pair of runs with a double down the third-base line.
Garza had allowed just two runs in seven innings in a home win against Chicago on April 25.
He settled down after that, retiring 12 straight at one point to hold Chicago off the scoreboard.
The story, however, was Jackson.
The 30-year-old righty had his best stuff working, and Milwaukee's bats never got comfortable. Two-out singles in the top of the first by Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy created the Brewers' best chance to put a run across, but Mark Reynolds struck out looking to end the threat.
All three of Jackson's first-inning outs came via the strikeout.
"I've seen (Jackson) like this before," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "He had good stuff today and he had good command with all of his pitches."
Jackson fanned two more in the second, two in the fourth and two in the fifth. The only inning he went without a K was the sixth, which was a 1-2-3 frame against the meat of Milwaukee's order.