10/10/2003 10:27 PM ET
Wood can't escape second jam
MIAMI -- It's never easy to hit Kerry Wood. He could be underhanding a softball in a beer-league game, and you wouldn't get much hard contact off the guy. Wood gets in trouble when he doesn't throw strikes -- when he gives you baserunners.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
For a stretch of 12 2/3 innings, Wood avoided that. He kept the free passes to a minimum, issuing two from the beginning of his previous start through the fourth inning of Friday night's NL Championship Series Game 3. For 4 2/3 innings on Friday, Wood didn't walk a batter -- he really never even came close to giving up a free base.
It was shaping up to be the second straight game where Wood, the consummate nasty-stuff guy, looked more like a pitcher than a thrower. He was getting ground balls, working hitters, doing the things veterans do. For once, or rather for twice, "Kid K" was relying on more than just his stuff.
Then in the fifth, he walked the pitcher of all people. With two outs. And it may have rattled the big right-hander. He worked out of the jam, but another walk two innings later proved costly, and Wood let a chance for a win slip away.
"I put myself in that situation," Wood said. "I shouldn't be throwing borderline pitches to the opposing pitcher. (The fifth-inning jam) took a little more out of me than I would like for it to have, but I made a lot of pitches that I shouldn't have had to make."
After putting Mark Redman on base with two outs in the fifth, Wood yielded a single up the middle to Juan Pierre. Two on and the middle of the order on the way soon. That's not what you want. And yet the trouble deepened. Wood walked Luis Castillo, giving him as many walks in a three-batter span as in the previous nine days of October combined.
And along came Pudge. Ivan Rodriguez, who has been the man for the Marlins this postseason, had a chance to turn a 2-1 Cubs lead into a 3-2 -- or bigger -- Florida advantage.
But just then, when Wood needed his command the most, it returned. He got strike one looking. Strike two was a check swing, and before Rodriguez knew it he was in an 0-2 hole.
Finally, Wood threw Rodriguez a pitch that ought to require some sort of permit or license to have in your arsenal. He got the former MVP to chase a wicked 88-mph slider down and away, and Rodriguez was done. That's right, just your ordinary, everyday 88-mph slider.
Sometimes you just have to rely on your stuff.
"In these games you're going to get in jams," Wood said. "A lot of times that's going to decide the outcome of the game -- whether you can get out of those jams or you don't get out of those jams."
Once, he did. Once, he didn't.
In the seventh, the trouble got started more quickly. With the Cubs ahead 2-1, Alex Gonzalez led off with a single, and Wood walked the dangerous Mike Lowell. Pierre sacrificed the runners over, and Castillo's groundout scored the tying run. Wood left a fastball over the plate and Rodriguez poked it to right to put Florida ahead.
"Fortunately, tonight, I was able to get out of a couple," Wood said. "But one there in the seventh ended up costing me."
Not that his teammates were complaining after a hard-fought win.
"If a guy's not pitching well, that's what it takes, is a team effort," said Kenny Lofton. "The team stayed behind him and kept chipping away and chipping away."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.