5/13 Cubs 9, Rockies 1
Travis Wood and Hippo Vaughn now have something in common, even if they’re not very familiar with each other. Wood posted his eighth consecutive quality start and hit an RBI double, one of six by the team, while Alfonso Soriano belted a two-run homer, and Starlin Castro, Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus all drove in a pair to lift the Cubs to a 9-1 victory Monday night against the Rockies.
Wood is the first Cubs left-hander to open the season with eight quality starts since Vaughn did so in 1919. Wood admitted he had never heard of Vaughn. That’s OK. This was the 23rd quality start by a Chicago pitcher this season, and while they have a combined 1.90 ERA in those games, the team has won only nine. Wood held the Rockies to two hits and walked three over seven innings.
“That was against a lineup that crushes left-handed pitching,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the Rockies, who entered the game batting .277 against southpaw pitchers. “To throw like that against those guys, the way they hit against left-handed pitching, was very, very impressive.”
Wood struggled in spring 2012 and began last season at Triple-A Iowa. He’s a different pitcher now.
“What he’s done since Spring Training of last year is pretty impressive,” Sveum said.
On Monday, the lefty was able to pitch to both sides of the plate and had impressive command of his cutter.
“He’s doing a lot of this without secondary pitches,” Sveum said. “It’s not like he’s throwing a lot of curveballs or changeups. He’s mixing in those pitches and using them when he has to against people who are vulnerable and able to use both sides of the plate and be aggressive and not walk people and help out with his bat, too.”
Basically, Wood has learned how to pitch.
“When they sent me down after spring last year,” Wood said, “I just got some work in on what they thought I needed and what I thought I needed and I was fortunate enough to be able to get those things ironed out and so far so good. I’ve been rolling from last year.”
Wood has a scraggly beard that he isn’t going to trim any time soon.
“I’m not really sure what I’m doing with it right now,” he said of his facial hair. “It just started, and I didn’t intend to let it keep going but it’s kind of hard to cut it right now.”
“I think he’s going to keep it,” catcher Welington Castillo said.
The Cubs have talked about how Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are part of the young core they want to build around, and have signed both to long-term deals. What about Wood?
“I would love to be here for a long time with the Cubs but that’s out of my hands,” Wood said. “I’m not really thinking about that right now at all. We’ve got to go out and win tomorrow, and I’ve got four more days to get ready for my next start and hopefully we can keep going on.”
– Carrie Muskat