Even All Stars can have bad days.
Travis Wood hasn’t had many since joining the Cubs, but Friday proved he wasn’t immune. He gave up five runs in just 3 1/3 innings of work, his shortest outing of his Cubs career, as the North Siders again came up short of the visiting Dodgers at Wrigley Field, this time falling by a score of 6-2.
“It took four months for something like that to happen,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Not too many starters will go through a whole season without having a little hiccup. He didn’t have things working today, command. He made some close pitches there in that key situation that just couldn’t get them.”
As Cubs fans know, Wood has been terrific this season. He entered Friday’s contest with a 2.79 ERA despite his .500 record of 7-7. But for the second straight outing he walked four or more hitters. Friday the count was five free passes, including a stretch in the third inning that saw him walk four Dodgers in a row.
[MORE: Sveum pleased with Lake's start]
“I was battling all day,” Wood said. “You can’t have five walks, especially with the team that they are over there and as well as they’ve been playing.
“I felt like I was just missing and, as much as I was missing, making it hard for (the home-plate umpire) to make a good call on a good pitch. It was pretty much all on me. You don’t walk (five) guys without something being wrong.”
It wasn’t the RBI single in the first inning that caused concern. The trouble started in the third, when Mark Ellis and Nick Punto hit back-to-back doubles to leadoff the inning and give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Then Wood put runners at the corners with one out on a walk to Yasiel Puig. The Cubs were handed an out on a base running snafu that ended with Punto tagged out at home plate, but Wood issued walks to the next three hitters, the last of which forced in a run.
[RELATED: Cubs have shaky ninth inning against Marmol]
After getting out of that mess with just two runs on the board, Wood ran into trouble again in the fourth. Three of the first four batters collected base hits, with David DeJesus bobbling Adrian Gonzalez’s in center field, allowing Hyun-Jin Ryu to score. That chased Wood from the game. Scott Van Slyke picked up a sacrifice fly to make it a 5-1 game, but the Dodgers again left the bases loaded.
L.A. had plenty of problems of its own, stranding a total of 10 base runners through six innings. But even leaving men on the bases, things seemed to go just fine for the red-hot Dodgers, now winners of 29 of their last 36 games.
“They’re a good team,” Wood said. “Even if they don’t hit the ball hard, they’re hitting it to where we’re not and making us make plays. It was just that everything kind of went their way tonight.”
But the rare bad day for Wood was multiplied by the kind of bad day that’s plagued the Cubs’ offense far too often this season. Getting hits wasn’t the problem, as the Cubs banged out 14 of them, including 11 off Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. But rarely were hits and base runners strung together, and runs were even rarer.
“That’s kind of been the M.O. all season: out-hit teams, lose a game and not get anybody in across home plate,” Sveum said.
“I feel like we were just a couple big hits away from being right back in that ballgame,” second baseman Darwin Barney said. “The hits that they got early were the ones we were searching for, and we didn’t get them.”
The offensive star for the Cubs was again Junior Lake. A day after hitting two homers in Thursday’s loss to the Dodgers, Lake collected four singles Friday. It was his second four-hit game in just his 16th major league contest.
“Another nice job, four hits,” Sveum said. “I think that’s his second four-hit game in two weeks. That doesn’t happen too often in two weeks.”
“It feels so good to see the result of what I do before the games,” Lake said through a translator. “It feels so great.”
Lake became the first Cub to pick up a pair of four-hit games in his first 16 career games since 1916 and the first major leaguer to do it since St. Louis’ Bo Hart back in 2003.
One other note was the appearance of Carlos Marmol, who pitched in the ninth, though likely for the first time in the bottom of that inning at Wrigley Field. The now-Dodgers reliever gave up a double and a walk but got out of it unscathed, even if the Cubs helped him out with a base running blunder.
In the end, this game went down as a blip, a slight bump in the road for the All Star Wood. In fact, this type of performance is so rare, you have to go back to his final start of 2011 -- when still with the Reds -- to find an outing this brief.
But Wood has is eye on his next start, and Barney is hardly concerned.
“It’s OK because that’s the first time I’ve seen that happen to him since probably last year or so,” Barney said. “It’s baseball, and that’s a really good team. That kind of thing’s going to happen. I’m sure he’ll come out next time and be just like he was before."