Jokingly, I posted a comment Monday about how Travis Wood might have to throw a shutout and hit a home run himself to defeat the Cincinnati Reds.
It didn't turn out that much different, actually; Wood threw seven outstanding shutout innings and the Cubs got two solo home runs (Ryan Sweeney and Luis Valbuena) and defeated the Reds 2-0. The win gave the Cubs a 3-4 record this year in Cincinnati, while they were 1-9 against the Reds at Wrigley Field. Yes, I know this makes little or no sense.
Before the game, Wood ranked 127th of 131 qualified starters in baseball in run support at 3.1 runs per start. He's still at a 3.1/start average after Monday's game, but has dropped to 130th; only John Danks has received less run support per start than Wood.
For those of you who suggested Monday that perhaps Wood (and/or Jeff Samardzija) should be shut down the rest of the year, this kind of start is why Wood should finish out the year. It's good for him to get a taste of what pitching in a meaningful game is like (even if the "meaningful" is only for the other team), and there are personal goals as well. I'm sure Wood would like to finish the season with an ERA under 3.00 (it's now 3.05), and though individual pitching wins don't mean that much any more, it would be nice to see him break into double figures (now 9-11 after Monday's win).
Apart from Wood and the two solo homers (Valbuena's established a new career high for him, in 67 fewer at-bats than his previous high, set in 2009), there's not all that much to tell about this one. Pedro Strop and Kevin Gregg finished up uneventfully; Gregg posted his 31st save, which ties him with Ted Abernathy (1965), Bruce Sutter (1977) and Lee Smith (1986) for 14th place on the all-time Cubs single-season save list. Next up: 33 saves by Smith (1984 and 1985), Joe Borowski (2003) and Ryan Dempster (2005).
The game was the Cubs' sixth shutout of the year, and they continue to run five games behind their Pythagorean win projection with a run differential of -52.
The Reds needed this game, too; the loss dropped them to third place in the National League Central race, two games behind the Cardinals and a game behind the Pirates. All three teams are likely to make the playoffs, but finishing third will mean being the visiting team in the wild-card game, while winning the division means not having to play in it. The Cubs will do their part to help knock the Reds down again Tuesday night, when Edwin Jackson faces Chicago-area native Tony Cingrani.