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Los Angeles Dodgers' Alex Wood ambushed in return to Atlanta

ATLANTA -- If the Atlanta Braves had a plan to take advantage of Alex Wood's emotions in his first start against them, they were not about to reveal it.

Wood, who was sent by the Braves to the Los Angeles Dodgers at last year's non-waiver trade deadline, struggled with fastball command and barely lasted four innings in the Dodgers' 8-1 loss to the last-place Braves.

Atlanta pounced early in counts, collecting two runs in the first inning, two more in the third and another two in the fourth. What the Braves really benefited from were three errors from a typically sure-handed Dodgers team.

The Braves' Tyler Flowers, who had four hits to match a career high, wouldn't claim to something as sinister as taking advantage of a pitcher in an emotional start.

"I didn't hear that strategy thrown around, although I do a pitchers meeting instead of a hitters meeting, so maybe it was said in there," Flowers said with a grin. "When guys have a good approach -- especially against a lefty that likes to throw hard in a lot, with the purpose of getting you out soft away -- when you can stay within yourself and let him have that inside corner, that keeps all the pitches in play for you rather than ambush one fastball in."

The angle of the former player returning home was lost on Flowers anyway. He is in his first year in Atlanta after playing with the Chicago White Sox.

For Wood, the concept was front and center. Manager Dave Roberts even admitted that the occasion was discussed openly on the team's flight from Los Angeles on Monday.

"There might be something to it," Roberts said. "I know he was excited about coming home, facing his former teammates. The [Adonis] Garcia hit-by-pitch, that was a fastball in, and he really yanked it. If he was trying to get in there or overthrow it or what, there might be something to it. But he's been around long enough that he can control his emotions. Those were just misexecuted pitches."

Flowers' mention of Wood's pitch-in, pitch-away strategy, and Wood's admission that he had fastball command issues, would help to explain how he hit two batters and walked three. That was in addition to the seven hits and six runs (three earned) that he gave up.

"That was not really the way I pictured coming back here for the first time," said Wood, who was 21-20, with a 3.10 ERA in three seasons with the Braves. "Fastball command was the most frustrating thing. I don't even know if I've walked in a run before in my professional career. The walks were pretty frustrating. It was a tough one to swallow, but I have another one in five days."

The season is early, but so far it has revealed an on-again, off-again pattern for Wood, which means his next scheduled start, at the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, should be better. Wood wasted little time in making sure his issues from Tuesday won't crop up again.

"I watched a lot [of the game film] already," Wood said after the game. "It's one of those things where I didn't feel like I was driving the ball in like I normally do. I'll take a fresh look at it tomorrow and kind of go from there."

Wood, who is from nearby North Carolina, said he had about 13 or 14 friends and family members in attendance Tuesday. On the bright side for Sunday, he has no known ties to Denver.

"It's hard to speculate on anything like that," Wood said when asked if the return affected him. "I was pretty amped up to come in here and hopefully have a good start. I had family in here and all that stuff, but that's not the way it went. But sometimes that's the way it goes."

While Wood's outing was in no way expected, perhaps more surprising was the play on defense. Third baseman Justin Turner had two fielding miscues, and shortstop Corey Seager had one.

"It was very uncharacteristic for our defense," Roberts said. "We made three errors. Woody didn't have his best stuff, but if we make a couple of plays for him it's a different ballgame. Nights like this will happen, and you have to give those guys credit. They pitched well."

Now the Dodgers have two delicate days ahead, especially when it comes to the use of their bullpen. It was far from ideal to rely on four innings from the relievers, with rookie Ross Stripling scheduled to pitch Wednesday. At least Clayton Kershaw is scheduled for Thursday.

Then comes the test of bullpen attrition that will be three days in Colorado starting on Friday.

"[Wood] was out there competing and gave us what he could," Roberts said. "Unfortunately, after four innings we had to go to the pen."