PHOENIX -- Alex Wood called baseball a "cruel game," after lasting just 1⅔ innings, the shortest start of his major league career, in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 12-4 loss Friday night to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
What had Wood particularly perplexed was that one of his lowest moments as a major league pitcher came six days after one of his highest, a seven-inning shutout in San Diego. What Wood might find out before long is that baseball can be both cruel and unforgiving, particularly when teams have to make difficult decisions about their postseason plans.
While they would never admit it this far from their clinching day, the Dodgers have already begun the process of feeling out their best combination of players for the first round of the playoffs. Considering that Clayton Kershaw has pitched on three days' rest in each of the past two postseasons, Wood's chances of making the Dodgers' first-round rotation were probably slim anyway, and Friday certainly isn't going to help.
It's quite likely the Dodgers will go with Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Brett Anderson exclusively against the New York Mets. Wood, however, is very much in play should the Dodgers advance to the second round. Another pitcher the Dodgers acquired in their three-team, 13-player mega-trade before the July 31 deadline, Mat Latos, is probably out of the running for any postseason action, unless it's as a long man.
Wood, unlike Latos, is firmly in the Dodgers' plans for 2016, so they certainly hope Friday wasn't indicative of some kind of looming decline. His three quality starts in his previous five would seem to discourage that line of thinking.
"He's been really pitching pretty solidly for us, kept us in most of the games he's pitched for us," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Tonight just wasn't his night."
It wasn't the Dodgers' night on a lot of levels. Even before Wood took the mound, it looked a little shaky. With a left-hander, Robbie Ray, pitching for Arizona and with Carl Crawford still feeling lower-back tightness after an awkward slide on a steal attempt earlier this week, the Dodgers went with an outfield of Justin Ruggiano, Chris Heisey and Scott Van Slyke. Their middle infielders were both 21-year-olds, Corey Seager and Jose Peraza.
Needless to say, that's not an alignment the New York Mets -- the Dodgers' presumptive first-round opponent -- figure to face.
That's not to say that some of those names couldn't make the Dodgers' first-round playoff roster. Peraza looks like a good bet because he might be the fastest guy in a Dodgers uniform right now. Much like Dee Gordon two years ago, Peraza could spend most of the season in the minors and still make the playoff roster as a pinch runner.
Seager looks like a good bet because he's one of the most talented guys in a Dodgers uniform right now, showing no signs of being awed by his surroundings judging by his 1.038 OPS in eight games up here. Seager had another base hit -- he's batting .385 -- and walked three times Friday, one of the few bright spots on a bleak night.
Ruggiano is going to find it harder to make a deep enough impression to be playing for the Dodgers beyond the regular season, particularly if Crawford remains healthy and Yasiel Puig makes it back by the end of the regular season. He has, however, done his best to make a powerful quick impression. A strike away from the Dodgers being shut out, Ruggiano hit a grand slam off Allen Webster. In six games, he is batting .400 with two doubles and three home runs.
So, even though the Dodgers won't admit it, the jockeying has already begun.