When the Cubs signed Edwin Jackson as a free agent last winter, they expected him to provide a stable presence in a rotation that slumped through much of the 2012 season.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer handed Jackson a four-year, $52 million contract that marked the biggest signing of the new front office regime. Jackson, who pitched for six teams over the last five years, was viewed as a guy who could benefit from staying in one place for an extended period of time.
It hasn't worked out that way so far.
Jackson made his seventh start Sunday and it was more of the same for the 11-year veteran as the Reds completed a three-game sweep of the Cubs with a 7-4 victory at Wrigley Field.
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Jackson allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk in five innings as his ERA inflated to 6.39 and WHIP increased to 1.63.
"I still feel like I'm being beat by the big inning," Jackson said. "I just have to go out there and execute pitches.
"I felt pretty good today. I couldn't avoid the big inning in the fourth. They strung together a few hits, but I felt like, for the most part, I was attacking the hitters at a pretty good pace.
Jackson gave up three runs on four straight hits in that fourth inning, including a two-run single to Todd Frazier. Jackson gave up another run in the fourth and picked up his fifth loss of the season, which leads the National League.
Jackson said he made some adjustments to his mechanics in between starts in an attempt to simplify things and gain some consistency. For his part, he says the contract is not weighing on his mind.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he felt Jackson showed improvement Sunday, but bad luck continued to work against him.
"He was better today," Sveum said. "Votto and these guys put some good swings on the ball. He got some groundballs, but he's a little stymied right now. All of his groundballs seem to go through every hole."
Jackson didn't point to bad luck after the game and said he felt better, despite the outcome.
"You really can't change what you're doing," he said. "You just have to keep going out and be yourself. I feel like if I can go out and throw the way I did today, more times than not, the results will be the opposite of what they were today."
The Cubs bullpen didn't do Jackson any favors, either. After the offense rallied to pull within a run in the bottom of the fifth inning, Shawn Camp and Kameron Loe gave the Reds three runs right back in the seventh and eighth innings to put the game away.
Camp, 37, was lauded as one of the Cubs' MVPs last season after appearing in 80 games with a 3.59 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. But this year, he's struggled to the tune of a 8.03 ERA and 1.86 WHIP, including two more runs Sunday.
"He's having a hard time getting anybody out right now," Sveum said. His stuff is flat and nothing's real crisp at all with him."
Much has been made of Carlos Marmol's struggles, but the rest of the Cubs bullpen has suffered through inconsistency all season. The Cubs' starting rotation (3.61 ERA) ranks near the top of Major League Baseball in almost every category, but the bullpen carries a bloated 4.71 ERA.
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"Right now, the bullpen is going through a tough stretch," Camp said. "Realistically, there are only two guys who are pitching well down there in Gregg and Russell.
"We have to pick it up a little bit. It can get ugly real fast. It's May and it's time for us to step up."