Rookie Anthony Rizzo forced the late-inning drama by hitting a game-tying home run leading off the ninth. It was the rookie's ninth home run and his third RBI of the game.
But the highlight was the arrival of Jackson and Vitters, both No. 1 Draft picks, both top prospects, and both eager to show what they can do.
"The kids did pretty good," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Jackson batted second and grounded out in his first at-bat in the first, then walked in the third and singled in the fifth for his first Major League hit. He also singled in the seventh off a lefty and scored on Alfonso Soriano's two-run double in the seventh, doing a barrel-roll into catcher A.J. Ellis at home. His day ended when he struck out in the eighth to strand two.
Vitters made his debut in the seventh as a pinch-hitter and flied out to left. The Cubs are in full rebuild mode. They now have 11 players on the 25-man roster who were not with the team on Opening Day.
"These guys have bat speed, they've got hand speed," Sveum said of Jackson, Vitters and Rizzo, who made his Cubs debut June 26. "These are the things you want to see at the big league level and how they develop."
Were they nervous?
"It made it a little bit easier because we were so tired and out of it because we didn't get any sleep," Vitters said. "We were like zombies on the plane, we couldn't really think. It was hard to be nervous. We tried to sleep so we could perform well when we got here."
It was quite the game. Jackson contributed to the Cubs' first run. David DeJesus walked to lead off and moved up on Jackson's groundout to first, although he appeared a little confused. DeJesus then scored on Rizzo's single.
"It hit off my shin," Jackson said. "I didn't hear a foul call -- I probably should've sold it more. That's what I said to [umpire] Dale [Scott] -- bad acting skills in the acting city."
The Dodgers tied the game in the fifth, but Welington Castillo homered with two outs in the sixth to go ahead, 2-1.
Cubs starter Justin Germano was pulled after his 77th pitch hit Mark Ellis with one out in the sixth. The Dodgers eventually loaded the bases, then Scott Maine walked pinch-hitter Juan Rivera to force in a tying run. Luis Cruz smacked a two-run single to go ahead, 4-2. Three Cubs pitchers combined to throw 48 pitches that inning, and only one ball was put in play.
Rizzo hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh and Soriano followed with a two-run double to go ahead, 5-4. But Andre Ethier answered with a two-run double in their half. Rizzo's homer tied the game at 6, and the Dodgers had two on against Shawn Camp in the ninth. The Cubs then pulled the infield in, and Ramirez lined the first pitch to left for the game-winner.
Sveum had gone out to talk to Camp and the infield before Ramirez's at-bat to make sure everyone knew what to do.
"It didn't take too much longer," Sveum said. "By the time I got in the dugout, I turned around and the game was over."
It's one both Jackson and Vitters won't forget.
"It was exhilarating," Jackson said. "I was disappointed with the loss. Get a couple hits, walk, score a run -- big hit by Anthony in the ninth. I thought we were going to get a little magic for our first game, but we'll save that for a later date."
Jackson, Vitters and Rizzo are the present and future Cubs. Veteran Jeff Baker was traded to the Tigers earlier Sunday, and as he left, he said the Cubs now are Rizzo's and Starlin Castro's team.
"I don't see it like that at all," Rizzo said. "We have 25 guys in here, and it's our team. We're all together here, no matter who it is. We have each other's backs and we're going to play hard and prepare hard and that's what I expect from everyone and everyone expects from me and everyone expects from each other to play hard and prepare hard."
The Dodgers are thinking postseason; the Cubs just want to end a five-game skid. What's the vision now?
"The vision is winning," Rizzo said. "That's what this whole organization has its vision on is winning. At the end of the day, as long as a 'W' comes, it doesn't matter who's here. There's probably a 16-year-old in a few years who will be up here. It doesn't matter if it's him, or a 40-year-old veteran."
Said Germano: "It seems like this last week, every time you come in, there could be a new face. I'm excited for what we have. It's a young team and there's definitely a lot of talent here and it's something to build on."