CHICAGO -- Travis Wood isn’t following up his breakout 2013 season the way he planned. The Chicago Cubs left-hander tossed 200 innings and delivered a solid 3.11 ERA last year, but through 26 starts in 2014, he has seen his ERA climb to 4.91 and his walk rate jump to a career-high 9.7 percent.
Though the walks were down in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader with the San Francisco Giants, Wood still didn’t get the results he and the Cubs were hoping for, giving up four runs on eight hits in six innings in a 5-3 loss that left them with a split.
“On the plus side, one walk,” Wood said after entering the night having given up at least three free passes in 10 of his previous 14 starts. “On the not, every ball they hit seemed to go right down the line. Lot of doubles, and doubles score runs, especially when you get multiple in an inning.”
The Giants managed four doubles and a home run off Wood on the evening, with two of their stars doing most of the damage. Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval combined to go 5-for-5 off Wood, with three doubles, a home run and a walk, with three runs driven in.
“Sandoval hit one at his eyes down the line, good piece of hitting there,” Wood said. “And he hit a curveball that was going to bounce down the other line. It seemed like everything they made contact with found a soft spot.”
Though it wasn’t an issue Thursday, Wood’s increase in free passes this season, combined with teams hitting him more regularly (he allowed a .643 OPS against last season, compared to .770 this year), have brought poor results. Obviously the walks need to come down, but to really find the success he had last season, Wood is going to have to start inducing weaker contact, since he’ll never be a power pitcher who racks up the strikeouts -- although his K rate has jumped to a career-high 18.6 percent this season.
Regardless, along with Edwin Jackson, Wood’s rough season has him on the fringe of what is likely to become a crowded battle for the back end of the Cubs' rotation. His final few starts this season could help determine just how solid his footing is heading into 2015.