'I'm glad it was him': Wood gives up HR to friend Farmer

May 29th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- Giants left-hander Alex Wood and Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer go way back.

They were college teammates at the University of Georgia, played together on the Dodgers and spent several offseasons as roommates in Atlanta. They even experienced a trade together, as they were packaged with Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in a salary swap with the Reds for Homer Bailey and Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs in December 2018.

Despite their intertwined paths, the close friends hadn’t faced each other in the Majors until Saturday, when Wood made his first start against the Reds since leaving Cincinnati as a free agent following the 2019 campaign.

Farmer ultimately got the best of Wood, blasting a three-run home run in the first inning to help the Reds clinch a series victory with a 3-2 win over the Giants at Great American Ball Park.

“It’s something our friends have talked about for a while, us facing each other in a real Major League game,” Wood said. “Obviously, he got the better of me in the first. But I guess if it’s going to be somebody over there, I’m glad it was him.”

Evan Longoria homered and Joc Pederson had an RBI double, but San Francisco couldn’t capitalize on enough scoring opportunities to reward Wood, who was charged with the loss despite holding the Reds to three runs -- all on Farmer’s homer -- on four hits over 5 2/3 innings in his longest start of the year.

The Giants finished 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base, with the final out of the game coming when pinch-runner Joey Bart was thrown out at home plate by right fielder Aristides Aquino while attempting to score the tying run from second base on Wilmer Flores’ two-out single in the ninth.

“Tough call, but … I completely support the decision to send him there,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “You have to make the outfielder make the throw in that situation with two outs. It’s very difficult to get back-to-back hits in that situation, and there’s always a chance that a throw is offline.”

After dropping two in a row to the Reds -- owners of the worst record in the Majors -- the Giants have now lost nine of their past 13 games, sliding a season-high seven games behind the first-place Dodgers in the National League West.

“I think we’re assessing our processes because we’re always tuning those up, and we have some work to do on them,” Kapler said. “We’re making progress but we’re not where we want to be as a team. I think that’s evident. We expect to be closer to the top of the division. We just haven’t been playing our best baseball for a month. We have to play better.”

Wood’s performance was a silver lining for the Giants, particularly since the 31-year-old veteran had entered Saturday with a 6.26 ERA over his past five starts. Wood said he hadn’t been pleased with the execution of his slider over that rough stretch, but he felt he found something during his outing Saturday, helping him rack up six strikeouts.

Still, he looked shaky in the first inning, yielding a single to Brandon Drury and a walk to Tyler Stephenson that put a pair of runners on with two outs for Farmer. Wood got ahead, 0-2, but he then misplaced a sinker that Farmer drove out to left-center field for a three-run shot that gave the Reds a 3-0 lead.

“Kind of surreal facing one of your best friends,” Farmer said. “I was pretty nervous before the game, more nervous than I’ve been before. I just kind of wanted to have fun with it. He’s a really good pitcher. He did well today, he just threw one bad pitch … luckily it was to me.”

Still, Wood managed to settle in after the bumpy start, going on to retire 12 in a row following Matt Reynolds’ two-out infield single in the second. He came within one out of completing six innings for the first time this season but he was removed after giving up a two-out single to Joey Votto, denying him a third opportunity to face Farmer, who is 14-for-28 (.500) with three home runs and 11 RBIs over his eight-game hitting streak.

Kapler summoned right-hander Dominic Leone to face Farmer, who struck out to end the sixth. Before walking off the mound, Wood exchanged a grin with his buddy, who responded with a head nod. Wood said he’s looking forward to a potential rematch when the Reds travel to Oracle Park for a three-game series at the end of June.

“Obviously, it’s a little weird when you’re facing a guy that you’re that close with,” Wood said. “But you just try to go out and execute. He got me the first one. Hopefully I’ll see him again in San Francisco.”