Jackson heating up at just the right time

Cubs' midseason acquisition hit key 3-run HR Thursday, drove in 5 runs Wednesday

Jackson heating up at just the right time

CINCINNATI -- You never know who can be a hero in the postseason. For the Cubs the last two days, Austin Jackson has provided the runs needed, including hitting a three-run homer on Thursday in a 5-3 victory over the Reds.

Jackson had two RBIs in 24 games with Chicago prior to Wednesday; he's driven in eight in the last two games, including a career-high five runs on Wednesday, and then three more Thursday.

"It's good to get some [at-bats]," Jackson said. "When you're in the role that I'm in, when you get in there, you just want to try to do whatever you can to contribute to a win. I've been getting some good pitches to hit and doing my best not to miss them when I get them."

Jackson is one of a handful of acquisitions the Cubs made this season that were under the radar. The bullpen was bolstered with the additions of Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill and Fernando Rodney. Jackson was needed because right fielder Jorge Soler was injured. Tommy La Stella had battled injuries all season, and now gives manager Joe Maddon a left-handed-hitting infielder.

Jackson's fine jumping catch

"Sometimes it's not just about this big name, but how does he fit, how does he fit into what we're doing here?" Maddon said. "What exactly do you need? The bullpen has been augmented, and A.J. has done a great job."

Even though Jackson, Richard, Cahill and the others haven't been with the Cubs since Opening Day, they feel they've contributed to the successful season. Chicago now is two games behind idle Pittsburgh in the National League Wild Card standings. It's been an easy transition for Jackson,

"You can tell this is a loose group of guys, and they like to keep it fun and they work hard and go out and play hard," said Jackson, 28, who was batting .272 with the Mariners before he was acquired Aug. 31. "That's something I've always been a part of and enjoy being a part of now."

Think about the deals the Cubs were linked to but didn't make this year. They were supposedly close to getting reliever Jonathan Papelbon, who is now home following his incident with Bryce Harper, and also infielder Chase Utley. If Utley were playing, would Starlin Castro have had a chance to get his season back on track and end up leading the NL in batting in September?

"Our best attribute our last 45 games was depth," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "We're running out a really deep team, and Joe can mix and match the lineups well. To a man, the guys we've added have brought something to the clubhouse and brought something to the team."

What Jackson also provides is experience. He reached the World Series in 2012 with the Tigers, and has played in the postseason in '11, '12 and '13.

"I'll do whatever I can do to prepare them for a situation," Jackson said. "It's a different animal in the playoffs."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.