'This is what you play for': Wood set for G3

October 11th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- won his title in 2020. He wanted a new challenge for 2021. On the eve of Game 3 of the National League Division Series -- one of the biggest starts of Wood's career -- the veteran left-hander took a moment to reflect on the cherished championship he earned last year.

Oh, and just to be clear, we're talking about fantasy football.

"Yeah, I won the [Dodgers'] league last year," Wood said, cracking a wry grin at the dais in the Dodger Stadium press room on Sunday evening. "So I moved on to the Giants to try and win the league here this year."

Indeed, Wood's ties to his former club run very deep. The last time he took the mound in a postseason game, it was Game 6 of the 2020 World Series. He pitched two perfect innings, striking out three. The Dodgers clinched a few hours later.

"I have a very good respect and admiration for him," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "He's a great competitor. I think he feels he's always the best option, which, as Major League ballplayers, that's a good thing."

Lately, Wood has been the best option for San Francisco -- particularly after a loss. All season long, the Giants have turned to Wood when they’ve needed a boost, and all season long, he’s delivered. Thirteen times, Wood has taken the ball following a loss this season; the Giants have gone 12-1 in those games.

They’ve never needed him quite like this. With their season perhaps hanging in the balance, Wood will be squaring off against Dodgers ace Max Scherzer. In best-of-five series tied at a game apiece, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win that series on 39 of 54 occasions (72.2 percent of the time).

"Huge game, obviously, tomorrow," Wood said. "But this is what you play for. I've been in a lot of postseasons, pitched in a lot of big games in the postseason, and tomorrow's no exception. You show up, and you give everything you got.

"After spending the year in San Francisco and playing over there for five years with a lot of those guys -- I'll leave everything I've got out there."

Monday marks Wood's 21st career playoff appearance -- including four out of the bullpen last season in the Dodgers’ run to the World Series. He owns a 3.55 career playoff ERA in 33 innings. Frankly, it’s his favorite time of year to be pitching.

"I love these types of atmospheres," Wood said. "It's something that really pushes you forward. You learn a lot about yourself this time of year, and I feel like my stuff's been good, and I've thrown the ball well. So I'm excited for the opportunity."

In 26 outings this season -- all starts -- Wood posted a 3.83 ERA and a 3.48 FIP. On Sunday, he noted the possibility that he could’ve returned to the Dodgers (and defended his fantasy football title) for the 2021 season. But he wanted a clear path to a starting opportunity, and the Giants offered that.

After filling an important bullpen role in October last season, Wood signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the Giants in January, in part because of his relationship with the Giants’ president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, Wood's general manager in Los Angeles.

"I really just believe in Farhan,” Wood said. “From our time together in L.A. and in seeing the staff that he organized and the guys he's gone out and got and put together, he's a really smart guy. I really believed in him, and I was grateful for him believing in me this year and wanting to bring me on and help me be the start of building something in San Francisco."

Wood was quick to tout Zaidi’s baseball acumen and to give him credit for the turnaround he has helped orchestrate in San Francisco. But it's not all praise for the Giants' top decision-maker. For instance, Zaidi was allowed into the Giants’ normally players-only fantasy football league this season.

"Yeah,” Wood quipped. “And he's looking bad this week."