Reds top Brewers for first 2-0 start since 2005
CINCINNATI -- Inside the clubhouse when outsiders can't see him, Travis Wood is known to his teammates as the Bozo, a class clown who might do anything to draw a laugh.
One of his minor-league catchers, Corky Miller, said this spring, "I hesitate to say this, didn't really want to say it, but one of the things that makes Wood such a good pitcher is that, well, he is a bit crazy."
If that's so, the Milwaukee Brewers should wrap a straight-jacket around the 24-year-old left-hander and haul him off to mental facility.
On Saturday night in Great American Ball Park, Wood was as efficient as a deluxe Cuisanart while pitching the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-2 victory over the Brewers.
If a pitch didn't have a specific purpose, Wood didn't throw it while holding the high-velocity Brewers offense to one run and four hits over seven innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.
The man who spent the winter at his Arkansas home working out with Philadelphia pitcher Cliff Lee, "pitching and hunting," needed only 83 pitches -- and 66 were strikes.
Obviously, he wasn't clowning around.
Not one of the first 10 Brewers hit the ball out of the infield and none reached base. Finally, Carlos Gomez flied to center and Ryan Braun got the first hit -- an infield roller with two outs in the fourth.
"Not giving up any fly balls is unusual for me," said Wood. "I'm known as a fly ball pitcher. Hey, ground balls don't fly out of the park."
Scott Rolen gave Wood a 2-0 lead in the first with a home run and the Reds added two more in the second -- all the scoring they would do this night. And it's all the scoring Wood needed.
Wood may be the class clown, but on the mound he is a vicious manipulator of the strike zone.
"Every game that Wood starts he looks as if he has a chance to throw a shutout or a no-hitter," said manager Dusty Baker, no doubt thinking back to the last half of last season when Wood arrived from Class AAA Louisville and came close to pitching a pair of no-hitters.
"He throws strikes, throws in the strike zone repetitively, and throws quality strikes," said Baker. "Later in the game he fooled them with a good breaking ball and a good change-up. He did it mostly early in the game with his fastball. The best pitch in baseball is a well-located fastball and that's what he was doing. He is fun to watch and he is going to be fun to see for a long, long time."
Wood was appreciative of help from the bullpen -- a 1-2-3 eighth by Nick Masset and a save in the ninth by Coco Cordero, who gave up a run and two hits before striking out Erick Almonte to end it.
Amazingly, the only run off Wood was a home run in the fifth by Almonte, his first major-league home run since he played for the New York Yankees on April 2, 2003 -- exactly eight years ago.
"He was real sharp with strike one, especially against a very good offensive team," said Baker of Wood. "To go seven inning in under 90 pitches (83) in your first start is unbelievable. And a lot of them were called strikes, early in the count. He wasn't giving them much to swing at, low percentage pitches to hit."
For a 24-year-old guy with less than half-a-season in the majors, Wood acts as if he was born, raised and plans to die on the pitching mound.
"It's him, as a person, his personality," said Baker. "He works out with Cliff Lee and that doesn't hurt. Being close to Cliff Lee is a big plus. He's very composed and confident, and calm about it. He isn't cocky or arrogant. He just does his job."
Wood also acknowledged error-less, high-quality defense -- a key double play, a catch by right fielder Jay Bruce while crashing into the wall along the foul line and a diving stop for a force at second by shortstop Edgar Renteria niely accessorized his pitching.
"Throwing strikes wins ballgames," said Wood. "I was fortunate to have great command of my pitches we played great defense, we hit the ball. I was able to have all my pitches work for me and locate them where I wanted."
Asked how a guy with his limited exposure to the klieg lights could be so under control and seldom flummoxed, Wood said, "I've just learned that once the ball leaves my hand, I have no control over what happens, whether it is a strike or they hit it. Once it happens, just give me the ball again and we'll do it again."
There wasn't much happening to up his temperature or furrow his brow.
On the other hand, Milwaukee starter Shaun Marcum was a wreck. He and Zack Greinke were acquired in the offseason to add heavy ballast to the Brewers starting staff.
But Marcum walked three in the first inning, none of which scored. But he also gave up a single to Joey Votto and a home run to Scott Rolen that made it 2-0.
Ryan Hanigan's single led the second and he scored on a triple by Drew Stubbs, with Stubbs scoring on an error by second baseman Rickie Weeks.
"That's not the Marcum you are going to see most of the time," said Baker. "The real Marcum wasn't ready tonight, wasn't feeling right. You could tell because he didn't have his usual pinpoint control."
Marcum, who seldom issued a walk while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, begans his Milwaukee career by giving up five walks in only 4 2/3 innings, three to left fielder/free swinger Jonny Gomes.
Wood walked nobody and walked off with the win.