Wood carving niche as Braves blank Indians
Rookie fires 5 2/3 scoreless innings; E. Johnson logs decisive RBIs
ATLANTA -- If one's knowledge of Alex Wood was limited to what he has done over the past few weeks, they would likely be shocked to learn he was preparing to make the 13th start of his professional career around this time last year.
Along with having dominating stuff and a deceptive delivery, Wood possesses a calm, confident demeanor that helped him escape the many potentially damaging situations he encountered while helping the Braves open a nine-game homestand with Tuesday night's 2-0 win over the Indians.
"Today wasn't one of his best outings," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He sprayed it around a little bit and got his pitch count up. But he's tough to take swings at. The composure he shows for a young man who just finished college a year ago is nice to see. It's refreshing."
Despite issuing a career-high four walks and allowing a runner to reach second base in each of the five full innings he completed, Wood extended his recent success with 5 2/3 scoreless innings. The 22-year-old rookie compiled a 0.90 ERA while holding opponents hitless in 24 at-bats with runners in scoring position during his five August starts.
These are not necessarily the numbers expected from a young pitcher who has made just eight Major League starts since the Braves selected him in the second round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Georgia.
"I feel like I've been able to get out of that situation and make pitches when I need to," Wood said. "That's such a huge part of having success anywhere, not just up here, so that definitely played a big role for me."
Wood's ability to escape trouble combined with Elliot Johnson's two-run, second-inning triple enabled the Braves to notch their second consecutive win and distance themselves from the frustration that was felt when they lost the first three games they played without the injured Jason Heyward this past weekend in St. Louis.
On the way to reducing their magic number to clinch the National League East to 19, the Braves took advantage of one of the few mistakes made by Danny Salazar, who retired the first four batters he faced before Brian McCann walked ahead of a Joey Terdoslavich single in the second inning. This set the stage for Johnson to drill his decisive two-out triple to deep right-center field. Drew Stubbs got his glove on the ball before dropping it as he crashed into the wall.
Stubbs' inability to complete what would have been a spectacular play led to the only damage incurred by Salazar, who worked four innings in just his fifth Major League start. The Indians are being careful with the number of pitches thrown by their highly-regarded prospect.
"[Stubbs] almost caught the ball," Johnson said. "He can really run. That ball hit off the wall and he still almost caught the thing. I'm glad it went our way and we get that cushion for Woody, and he took it the rest of the way."
With Dan Uggla likely to come off the disabled list on Wednesday, Johnson's short stint as Atlanta's starting second baseman is likely over. But the speedy infielder certainly has made a positive impact while recording five hits in the five games he has played since the Braves claimed him off waivers from the Royals last week. The veteran infielder recorded just one hit in his final 51 at-bats with Kansas City.
"Woody was the story of the day," Johnson said. "He really did a great job of commanding all of his pitches and keeping them off balance."
Former Brave Michael Bourn began the game with a single and advanced to second base when Carlos Santana drew a two-out walk in the first inning. Wood then set the tone for the evening when he surrendered another leadoff single and issued another walk that created Cleveland's second-inning threat, which was quieted when Michael Brantley grounded into a double play.
Wood did not flinch after issuing two-out walks to Jason Kipnis and Santana in the third inning. Nor did he buckle after allowing Asdrubal Cabrera's fourth-inning leadoff double or Kipnis' two-out double in the fifth.
"There was a lot of deception in [Wood's] delivery, and there's some late movement," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's not a real hard thrower, but there's a ton of deception. We had a couple chances, but not a lot going."