Monday, September 18, 2017

Alex Wood joins with Clayton Kershaw for a formidable combination

Dodgers' starter Alex Wood is set to face the Phillies on Wednesday
When asked to name the ace of the NL West Division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers most Phillies fans would be able to easily spit out the name Clayton Kershaw.

But I would venture to say that some of those same fans would have difficulty naming even one more member of that LA rotation. Even the most knowledgeable might have a tough time identifying their number two starter.

That number two would be lefty Alex Wood, who has developed nearly into a co-ace with Kershaw. The 26-year-old has fashioned a remarkable 15-3 record in the 2017 campaign with a 2.69 ERA and 1.062 WHIP mark. He also has a sensational 144/37 K:BB ratio.

“He’s been great for us all year,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner following Wood's shutout over Washington Nationals this past Friday night. “He’s been throwing the ball as good as anyone.”

Wood was drafted by the Atlanta Braves as their second-round selection in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft. He made his big-league debut in 2013, and went 21-20 over parts of three seasons with the Braves before going to LA in a three-team deal at the 2015 trade deadline.

He throws in a herky-jerky three-quarters delivery with a repertoire that includes a four-seam fastball, two-seam sinker, a knuckle-curve, and a changeup.

Wood opened the 2017 season in the Dodgers' bullpen due to club's surplus of veteran starting pitching. However, injuries and ineffectiveness in the Dodgers' starting staff elevated his role to the rotation and he's hung tight ever since. He opened his stint as a starter with 10 consecutive victories en route to earning a spot on the National League All-Star team.

He extended his streak to 11 wins after his first start out of the All-Star break but experienced some bumps afterwards, surrendering 11 earned runs on 17 hits in 11.2 combined innings over his next two starts. He ended August with a stint on the disabled list with a sore shoulder.

“It's a little concerning given his history," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts at the time per Scooby Axson for Sports Illustrated. "We've really got to be cautious.”

Wood has dealt with health issues before, dealing with an impingement in his left elbow last year that required surgery and placed him out of commission for two months.

Wood struggled in his return earlier this month, surrendering nine earned runs on 15 hits combined in outings against the Padres and Rockies.

Questions surfaced regarding his role with the postseason just three weeks away. Perhaps he would best help manager Dave Roberts’ team as a left-hander out of the bullpen in October?

Wood seemed to make a statement by shutting out the Nationals this past weekend. He allowed just three hits, walking one batter while striking out eight across six innings.

"Woody's stuff was really good," said Roberts per MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. "He kept those guys in check all night. You strike out Daniel Murphy three times, you know you're doing something right."

Wood himself recognized the importance of the performance.

“I thought it all kind of came together,” he said per Gurnick. “I’m pretty close, still a little to go. I’ve been working really hard to solidify my mechanics and be back to where I need to be for the playoffs. Tonight was a good stepping stone.”

Now it would appear that Wood has re-established himself firmly as a postseason starting option. He can take another step towards that goal with another strong performance in a scheduled start on Wednesday night against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
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Follow Matthew on Twitter: @MatthewVeasey
BY MATTHEW VEASEY
Contributing Writer
matthew.veasey@verizon.net

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