Cubs: After rocky start, Travis Wood turns the corner

Cubs: After rocky start, Travis Wood turns the corner
May 18, 2014, 5:30 pm
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Based on the first inning, it looked like more of the same for Cubs starter Travis Wood.

The left-hander, who's recently dealt with control problems, issued three walks in the opening frame against Milwaukee Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. In Wood's previous four starts, he walked 11 in 22 2/3 innings -- and it's no coincidence he allowed 19 earned runs over that span, too.

But Wood escaped from his first inning jam, getting Khris Davis to ground out to end the inning. He made a minor adjustment before heading out for the second inning, and proceeded to shut down the first-place Brewers over his next six innings in a 4-2 Cubs win.

"I was kind of flying open there in the first after the first or second hitter there," Wood said. "So we made that (adjustment) and were able to roll on after that."

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Outside of Rickie Weeks' two-run homer in the fifth, Wood blew through Milwaukee's lineup, retiring 19 of the 21 batters he faced after the first. He had his cutter working inside on Brewers' right-handers, which opened up the outer third of the plate for four of his seven strikeouts.

That's the recipe for Wood to have success, working in with the cutter and locating away. Outside of the first inning, he accomplished that against Milwaukee.

"His cutter was probably working well," manager Rick Renteria said. "He was locating down and away from what I could tell. It’s not that he nibbles, but when he locates down and to the corners, he’s really, really effective, like most pitchers."

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The key for Wood, now, is to show he can pitch like this away from Wrigley Field. In five home starts, Wood has 39 strikeouts against seven walks and two home runs allowed; on the road he has 12 strikeouts, 11 walks and two home runs allowed.

The sample sizes are still pretty small -- he only has five home starts and four road ones -- but Wood won't get back to his 2013 All-Star level without solving those road problems (he had a 2.70 ERA on the and a 3.39 ERA at home last year).

Wood is under team control through 2016 and has proven to be a valuable asset since the Cubs acquired him in exchange for Sean Marshall in December 2011. Walks and road woes won't make Wood part of the core at Clark and Addison, but stretches like Wood had after the first inning on Sunday could make the 27-year-old an intriguing part of the Cubs' plan.