It hasn't exactly been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season for Travis Wood, but the Cubs lefty hasn't exactly built off his 2013 All-Star campaign.
Wood looked like a building block last year, helping to stabilize the Cubs' rotation after the Matt Garza and Scott Feldman deals. The 27-year-old went 9-12 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while earning his first trip to the Midsummer Classic.
But this year, things haven't gone quite as smoothly. After Friday's no-decision, Wood is 7-9 with a 5.06 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. His H/9 rate has jumped from 7.3 to 9.7 and he's been walking batters at the highest rate of his career.
Pitching in front of a sold-out Wrigley Field Friday, Wood didn't get much help from his teammates, surrendering three unearned runs in the first inning to the Cardinals. After throwing 66 pitches in the first two innings, Wood had to battle just to make it through five frames and help minimize the impact on an overworked bullpen.
"Woody did a nice job of overcoming that first inning and getting us through five," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "We had a couple of plays in that first that kind of extended it for him, but he kept grinding and he settled down.
"It was a nice job just to keep us in the ballgame."
Wood didn't get the win after serving up a pair of solo shots in the fifth to let the Cardinals tie the game, but his effort helped inspire the bullpen to close things out for the Cubs victory.
"We had faith that he was gonna battle and he did," reliever Neil Ramirez said. "He did an awesome job. Having to throw a lot of pitches in the first couple innings, he came back and did his job and that's always awesome to see as a bullpen.
"It gives us a little fire, too. It was a good team effort today and we were able to come in and shut the door. We knew he was battling and we wanted to come in and battle for him."
Wood became part of the conversation as a franchise cornerstone last year, giving the Cubs a chance to win each time out. He finished fouth in Major League Baseball in quality starts - 24 out of 32 games - and saw his name listed alongside Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright, Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw among the league leaders.
But he has only nine quality starts in 21 outings this season and hasn't recorded one since June 26, touching six innings just once in five starts since then.
Even though his pitching line wasn't pretty Friday afternoon, Wood felt he took a step in the right direction.
"It wasn't great numbers-wise, but a good start overall for me," he said. "I had good command of my pitches. Missed with a couple, but it happens. Definitely something to build upon."