ATLANTA – Alex Wood pitched eight innings Tuesday night and allowed just one earned run on four hits while striking out a career-high 11 batters.
He still lost the game.
Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee singled home Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth inning to plate the game’s only run. The Marlins only needed one because their starting pitcher, Jose Fernandez, threw a gem to top Wood’s.
Fernandez pitched eight innings and allowed just three hits, with no runs crossing the plate. He matched a career high with 14 strikeouts.
“It’s hard to even say,” Wood said about what he could have done better on Tuesday. “It was early in the count and maybe the ball [the double by Stanton in the fourth] could have been down more. I mean that ball was two to three inches off the plate, and he got good wood on it and put it down the line like that. You can’t take it back, it was a good pitch.”
Other than those back-to-back hits in the fourth, Wood didn’t make too many mistakes. And even the changeup Stanton hit to start off the rally in the fourth shouldn’t be called a mistake.
Maybe call it unlucky for Wood, which has been his Modus Operandi this season.
On Tuesday, Wood lost his second straight 1-0 game. Braves hitters gave him just three hits on Tuesday against the Marlins, and four hits against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 17. Talk about a lack of run support.
To add further pain and misery to what Wood has been going through, Tuesday’s outing was his second in five starts where he allowed just four hits and less than two runs, and still lost the game. The other time that happened was on April 6 against the Washington Nationals, when he went seven innings and gave up two runs on four hits.
So, even though it may be a great idea for Wood to buy the batting order an expensive dinner on their next off day as a form of bribery to score runs, no amount of fancy dining could have helped against Fernandez.
Braves third baseman Chris Johnson was asked if it was Fernandez’ slider that made him so unhittable Tuesday. "It could have been the 99 [MPH] he was throwing up there too," said Johnson, who had one of Atlanta’s three hits on the night.
Johnson also said that the 21-year-old Fernandez was definitely the best pitcher in baseball, and that his performance on Tuesday was the best outing Johnson had ever seen, at any stage in his baseball-playing life.
That’s enormously high praise; applause manager Fredi Gonzalez added onto that commendation.
“He’s got the capability of running those type of games out every time he goes out,” Gonzalez said of the young Marlin. “He’s got 97, 98, 99 miles an hour early in the game and commands his breaking ball, commands his fast ball.
“He did everything. We had nine hitters, not counting Woody with [pinch-hitter Ryan] Doumit; professional hitters. And they’re coming back [to the dugout] shaking their heads.”
Both pitchers combined in a record-setting masterpiece.
Fernandez and Wood together had 25 strikeouts. Relief pitchers David Carpenter and Steve Cishek added three more in the ninth (one for the Marlins’ Cishek and two for Carpenter). This was the first time since 1914 that pitchers from two teams combined for 28 strikeouts and zero walks.
No one deserves to lose a game pitched so beautifully. But, after just five starts this season, Wood is getting used to this kind of heartbreak.