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Jackson struggles as Rays shut out by White Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — There were lots of people headed in different directions after Sunday's quiet 6-0 loss to the White Sox, with Jeff Niemann and Mike DiFelice saying their goodbyes, injured players coming and going and the rest of the Rays having to pack for this week's three home-away-from-home games at Disney.

But the biggest lingering question as the Tropicana Field clubhouse emptied was where was enigmatic starter Edwin Jackson headed.

Having opened the season with two dazzling starts, Jackson turned in a second straight poor performance, giving up all six runs in less than five innings, allowing seven hits and three walks while throwing 90 pitches.

"You saw a little bit of everything over his first four starts of where E.J. is in regard to his development," manager Joe Maddon said. "You have a young, potentially spectacular pitcher on one hand and on the other hand he's still growing to get to that point."

Jackson is still 24, but at some point he may test Tampa Bay's patience. Sunday, he didn't give the Rays (8-11) much of a chance, allowing solo runs in the first and third and four in a messy fifth, his mistakes magnified as his teammates were shut down and shut out by Sox starter John Danks, much like Andy Sonnanstine did to Chicago on Saturday.

After starting 2-0 and allowing one run in 14 innings to the Yankees and Mariners (0.64 ERA), Jackson has lost twice and allowed 11 in 9½ innings to the Yankees and White Sox (10.65 ERA).

"Fastball command," Maddon said. "That's what their guy had (Sunday) and that's what Sonny had (Saturday) and that sets up the entire game. He wavers with that a little bit at this point, and we just have to continue to harp on it.

"He really has a good delivery, great arm stroke, it's just to harness this whole thing. He's a young man who's got many years ahead of him. It's gonna happen on a consistent basis. We're just waiting for the consistent part to kick in."

So is Jackson, who shrugged and said falling behind in the count was again his undoing. "Last two starts it's just not been making pitches when I need to," he said.

Jackson had two outs and two strikes on Sox slugger Jim Thome in the first and gave up a historic home run, Thome tying Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 19th on the all-time list at 512.

But his bigger problems came in the third, when a leadoff walk followed by a mental and physical mistake by catcher Shawn Riggans, who threw — wildly — to second on ball four to the next batter, led to a run. "The throw had good carry on it," Riggans cracked. "It one-hopped (centerfielder B.J.) Upton."

And even more so in the fifth, when he had one out and an 0-and-2 count on Nick Swisher, but walked him ("That's stupid right there," Jackson said), and it got worse quickly, as he allowed two singles and a two-run triple.

"He was throwing the ball well, and it just gets away," Maddon said. "The ability to really stem the tide when it's going in the wrong direction, where you're able to gather your thoughts, slow things down and get out of a jam, sometimes he's been able to do that, and tonight was not one of those nights. I think that is a mark of youth, or a lack of experience."

And a whole other question.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Jackson struggles as Rays shut out by White Sox 04/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 9:39am]
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