Chicago Cubs: Justin Verlander
The Detroit Tigers’ Verlander got the better end of the matchup, not surprisingly, but the Cubs’ Wood held his own and has emerged as one of the club’s steadiest starters this month.
With the adrenaline flowing a little more than usual, Wood didn’t do himself any favors by having the leadoff man on base for seven consecutive innings.
He limited the damage to three runs over 6 2/3 innings, thanks to three double plays, but one of those leadoff men to reach base was Ryan Raburn, who scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.
“I would say for me it was a little more amped up going against a guy like Verlander because you know you have to be on top of your game. You know that even if he doesn’t have his A game he’s still a great pitcher. I think everybody was bringing their A game or at least that’s what their mindset was. We battled all game and it just wasn’t our day.”
While the trade to get Wood from the Reds this offseason and send Sean Marshall to Cincinnati raised eyebrows at the time and was soundly criticized this spring, it has started to make a lot more sense in recent weeks. Marshall has been heating up now that he is back in a setup role with the Reds, but Wood is starting to get hotter as well.
The left-handed Wood was brutal this spring as he had trouble staying down in the strike zone and in turn lost his confidence. He has a spring in his step now as the duel with Verlander showed.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to have some good ballgames and have been throwing the ball well and the pitches have been working,” Wood said. “The confidence level is high. And we’re battling each game, we’re right there each game. I think we’re going to at least keep battling and win some ballgames here and there.”
In three June starts, Wood has not given up more than three runs in any of them. In fact, five of his six starts in the major leagues this season have been solid with the lone throw-away start the outing on May 28 against the Padres when he gave up six runs over five innings.
“He's done a really good job,” manager Dale Sveum said. “His only one really rough outing was when he gave up the five home runs and the wind was blowing 30 mph out. Maybe four of them were just routine fly balls in any other park. Other than that he's done a good job. Today he had really good command of his fastball inside and his cutter. He didn't really use a lot of secondary stuff today but had really good command of his fastball.”
On the Tigers side of things, manager Jim Leyland tabbed Verlander’s start as “a little sluggish,” but that doesn’t figure to take away any of the confidence Wood got from this one.
He even hit the ball hard in two at-bats, lining out to shortstop his first time to the plate and getting thrown out at second base in the fifth inning while trying to stretch his single into a double. But even that hustle was appreciate since there were two outs and only one hit instead of two would have gotten another run against Verlander.
“I tried to get to second and thought, ‘There’s two outs and the worst-case scenario, the top of the lineup’s up if I get thrown out and if not maybe I can score on a hit,’” Wood said. “I was trying to do all I can do.”
Indeed he has been. Things might not have gotten off to the best of starts this spring, but Wood is finally starting to show the faith the front office had when they traded away a workhorse lefty reliever in Marshall.