"I couldn't avoid the big inning," Jackson said. "I felt like for the most part we were attacking the hitters at a pretty good pace, and made them hit the ball."
The right-hander, who signed a four-year, $52 million contract this offseason, remains winless in seven starts for the Cubs. He was lifted after scattering eight hits and throwing 86 pitches over five innings.
"I had a different mind frame today," said Jackson, who made a few mechanical adjustments after his last outing, a loss to the Padres. "I felt I could go out and throw strikes and challenge the hitters, and we did that for the most part. They came out in the fourth inning and strung together a few timely hits where there were balls down the line or finding holes in the infield, and they were able to get people on base and score."
Jackson has yet to pitch into the seventh this season, struggling with one bad inning in each of his outings. The Reds got to him in the fourth. Votto and Brandon Phillips each singled to open the inning, and Bruce followed with his RBI double. Frazier rapped a two-run single to center to open a 3-0 lead.
Shin-Soo Choo singled to start the Reds fifth, then stole second and moved up on an errant throw by catcher Dioner Navarro -- the Cubs' 25th error this season -- before scoring on Zach Cozart's sacrifice fly.
"[Jackson] got three or four fastballs up in the zone right there," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He was better today. Votto, those guys put good swings on balls and got some ground balls. [Jackson's] ground balls seem to go through every hole. He was OK today. We just had a hard time with the bullpen holding them down. Their bullpen gave up one, and ours gave up three, and that changed the game around."
The Cubs rallied with two outs in the fifth against Mat Latos. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo both singled, and Alfonso Soriano dropped a double between Choo and Phillips in shallow center. The two Reds got tangled up, and the ball deflected off the center fielder's face. Soriano then scored on Nate Schierholtz's RBI single to close to 4-3.
"It looked ugly there, but this wind plays havoc with the ball," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of the collision. "I saw Choo break back, and I knew we were in trouble."
On the plus side for the Cubs, Carlos Marmol retired the side in order in the sixth for the first time in since April 18, after six rough outings this season. But Shawn Camp couldn't stop the Reds in the seventh, as Votto hit an RBI double and Phillips added a sacrifice fly.
"He's having a hard time getting anybody out right now," Sveum said of Camp. "His stuff is flat, and nothing's real crisp right now."
"Obviously, a lot of balls find holes," Camp said, "and then you get deep in the inning and one big hit turns into a turmoil. The most important thing is getting ahead of the hitters and putting them away."
Marmol met with Sveum before the game and offered to throw whenever the manager needed him.
"I'm glad he gave me the ball," Marmol said of Sveum. "It didn't matter what inning. I told him I want to pitch, no matter what. He gave me the ball. He trusts me, and I went out there and had a good inning today."
On Saturday, Marmol threw 14 pitches, four for strikes. The ratio was better Sunday as he threw 12 pitches, seven for strikes.
"I threw a lot of strikes today, and my slider was a little better, and hopefully I can keep getting three outs -- one, two, three," Marmol said.
The Cubs had runners at second and third with none out in the ninth, but the next three batters hit fly outs, one in foul territory. This was the 26th game out of the Cubs' 31 to be decided by three runs or less, and Chicago is 9-17 in those contests. The Cubs have lost six of their last eight games.
"It's just a matter of going out, and you really can't change what you're doing," Jackson said about how the team can get out of its funk. "You have to 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."
This is the first time Jackson has received a long-term contract, and he is the first player to get one from Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations. Is that the problem?
"I don't feel like I'm pressing," Jackson said. "I still feel like I'm being beat by the big inning. I have to go out and execute and make pitches when I have to."
He's probably not the only one on the Cubs who feels that way these days.