CHICAGO – The All-Star Game is still a little over a month away, but with the way Travis Wood has pitched for the Cubs, he can go ahead and book a plane ticket to New York.
Wood has consistently been their best pitcher amid the Cubs’ inconsistent season and the left hander proved that again in his outing Friday against the Pirates. Mixing his pitches and keeping Pittsburgh’s hitters guessing helped Wood hold the Pirates to one run in six innings. The offense again provided no run support forcing Wood to take the loss in a 2-0 Pirates win.
“I did pitch well, felt I kept them off balance and I was able to get outs when I needed except for the one that really counted,” Wood said. “Maybe I have to go back and look at some video, figure out what I could have done different, if anything, other than executing the pitch.”
Quality starts – allowing three earned runs or less in at least six innings – can be a misleading barometer since the metric assesses the same value of a start whether a pitcher gave up three runs in six innings or he threw a complete-game shutout. While Wood has recorded a quality start in 11 of 12 outings, which leads the team, run support has played a big role in skewing some of Wood’s numbers. Despite a 5-4 record, his 2.65 ERA leads all Cubs starters. The Cubs have scored three runs or less in eight of Wood’s starts.
“He’s pitched like an All-Star, that’s for sure,” manager Dale Sveum said. “ … They’re not just quality starts. They’re one or two runs through six [innings].”
Wood attributed his improvement from last season to better command of all his pitches, especially being able to hit his spots on his glove side. He found a rhythm after walking Pittsburgh’s No. 8 hitter, Travis Snider, with two outs in the second inning.
He retired the next 11 Pirates he faced. Wood struck out six and walked two on 103 pitches.
Wood’s preparation hasn’t changed, despite a stretch of good starts to open the season. In the four days leading up to his start, Wood meets with Cubs assistant Mike Borzello to go over the scouting report and create a gameplan.
But all the work Wood put in before Friday’s start against the Pirates couldn’t prevent Pittsburgh left-hander Francisco Liriano from using bouts of wildness to his advantage. Liriano (4-2) lowered his ERA to 1.75 and carried a no-hitter into the fifth, which ended on Wood’s one-out single. Even though Liriano walked five Cubs in seven innings, they only recorded two hits off him.
The Cubs’ meager offense doesn’t take away Wood’s effectiveness in terms of All-Star consideration. Someone from the Cubs will have to represent the team next month at Citi Field in New York City. Why not Wood?
“Travis has been the same all year, consistent, pounding the zone,” second baseman Darwin Barney said. “When he’s pitching it’s fun to play behind him because you know he’s going to throw a lot of strikes. Unfortunately we couldn’t get any runs across for him.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.