ATLANTA — The chance for the Atlanta Braves to win 10 games in a row, and complete a perfect homestand, fell by the wayside Sunday. Or more appropriately, those chances caromed off the left-field foul pole, as the Arizona Diamondbacks took the final game of the series, 3-1 on Sunday. Here are three observations from the game:
When Alex Wood walked Arizona’s starting pitcher, Wade Miley, to start the third inning, it was as if an ominous storm cloud instantly appeared in the skies above Turner Field. Wood induced two fly balls from the next two batters, but Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt made him pay.
Goldschmidt took an 0-1 fastball and skied it down the left-field line. Before the home crowd had a chance to argue whether the ball landed fair or foul, it bounced off the foul pole, instantly turning it into a two-run Arizona lead.
Had Wood not walked Miley, the leadoff hitter that inning, the fly ball to right field from Aaron Hill, the batter before GoldSchmidt, would have been the third out of the inning. Wood would have escaped unscathed.
But the walk came back to haunt Wood in a big way. And the Braves starter–who said he’d never walked a pitcher to start an inning ever before–honed in on a moment three batters later as one that cost him severely.
"Usually they make you pay when you walk anybody, much less the pitcher," said Wood. "It’s still not an excuse to let the one guy in their lineup you knew (Goldschmidt), and had a good plan for, beat you."
It’s not just Wood, and the Braves, that Goldschmidt has hurt this season. He’s hitting .310 after Sunday’s game, and the third-inning blast was his 16th of the season. Add those two RBI to Goldschmidt’s total, and he’s ranked third in the National League with 58 RBI.
It’s also not just Sunday where a home run has hurt Wood this season.
Wood has now given up seven home runs in his 10 starts this season. Not all seven have caused loss-causing damage, but three (including Sunday’s Goldschmidt blast) have been killers.
On April 6, Wood gave up a solo shot in the seventh inning to Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals. The Nats pulled ahead 2-1 on that home run, and never relinquished the lead. Brandon Crawford, who plays shortstop for the San Francisco Giants, launched a fourth-inning solo shot off Wood on May 4. The Giants took a 2-1 lead on that dinger, and went on to win 4-1.
Outside of the Goldschmidt home run Sunday, Wood pitched masterfully. He threw seven innings and only allowed three hits. Take that home run out of the equation, and the Braves might still be streaking.
"How much more could you ask from Woody," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez queried about Wood. "It’s another loss, but he only gave up two runs, and loses. The only thing you can tell him is to keep plugging away and the tide will turn eventually."
Wood has pitched seven innings or more and allowed two runs or less four times this season, and taken a loss.