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Wood eager to push past hard-luck losses

CINCINNATI -- Left-hander Alex Wood had to settle for a no-decision in Wednesday night's 3-2 Braves loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh, despite allowing two runs over seven-plus innings. Six of the 23-year-old's nine losses this season have come in starts in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer, and Wednesday's no-decision was his second this season when allowing no more than two earned runs.

Wood threw seven scoreless innings before issuing a walk to Gaby Sanchez and allowing a Travis Snider ground-rule double to open the eighth. With the Braves leading, 2-0, right-hander Jordan Walden came on in relief and got the next batter, Chris Stewart, to ground out to first. Sanchez scored on the play and Walden threw a wild pitch to the following batter, Neil Walker, enabling Snider to score the tying run.

Pittsburgh won in the ninth on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Sanchez against right-hander David Carpenter.

Entering Thursday, Wood's run support of 2.94 runs per start was the second lowest in the Majors, behind only Padres left-hander Eric Stults (2.76).

"He's been nails," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Wood before Thursday's series opener with the Reds at Great American Ball Park. "I don't believe in wins and losses for a pitcher. He's been terrific. I talked to him a little bit today, and he goes, 'Skipper, I want the ball in the eighth inning. I want to be that elite-type pitcher in the Major Leagues,' and I think it was a good learning experience for him.

"Two starts prior to [Wednesday's], we pushed him to 124 pitches [against the Nationals on Aug. 10]. But he wants that; he's got that mentality to be a top-tier pitcher in the Major Leagues, and to be in that category, you've got to go out and go eight innings, go complete games. And he wants to do it. And that's more than half the battle, for me."

Wood's eagerness to improve despite tough-luck results like Wednesday's was evident Thursday.

"He was here at 12:30 today, taking care of his body and preparing for his next start," Gonzalez said. "You don't see that from a young pitcher. Usually those habits come a little bit later from a veteran guy. But he's had that from Day 1 in the Major Leagues.

"And we forget that he was pitching Double-A ball last year."

Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for
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