Dodgers’ Alex Wood and Joc Pederson team up to beat the Reds 3-1

on Jun17

The fire alarm blared across the room. Emergency lights flashed at two-second intervals. A thin haze of smoke filtered through the visitors’ clubhouse at Great American Ball Park, the product of a postgame fireworks display, one of the few explosive exhibitions staged by the Reds on Friday. In a 3-1 Dodgers victory, Alex Wood disarmed almost all the rest.

Logging eight innings for only the second time as a Dodger, Wood kept his defenders busy and his opponents unsteady. He struck out five and permitted four hits. The last cost him a chance at a shutout, as he allowed a home run to Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco in the eighth.

Even so, Wood (7-0, 1.90 earned-run average) became the first Dodgers pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1985 to begin a season with 10 consecutive starts without a loss.

“This is the best my stuff has ever been,” Wood said. “I’ve been saying it all year. Just because of that, this is the best roll I’ve ever been on.”

On offense, the Dodgers did not exactly set the night ablaze. But Joc Pederson homered for the third time this season, Chris Taylor raked an RBI double and Wood contributed an RBI single on his own behalf. Kenley Jansen recovered from a leadoff double in the ninth to strike out the next three batters with nine pitches for his 14th save.

The Dodgers (42-26) have won seven of their last eight, and they’ve beaten the Reds four times without defeat this season. Wood was facing Cincinnati for the second time in six days, but his opponents could not discern his pattern of attack. Wood combined aggression with efficiency. He required 89 pitches to collect 24 outs.

“Every quadrant, he worked tonight,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He was on the attack from the beginning.”

Wood also received an early advantage. Pederson provided the lead in the second. The Dodgers had chased Cincinnati starter Tim Adleman after five innings when he faced them at Dodger Stadium on June 11. Adleman looked sharper on Friday, but he could not keep the Dodgers off the scoreboard.

When Adleman tried an inside fastball with a 2-1 count, Pederson lifted a two-out solo shot over the right-field fence. Pederson had not hit a home run run since May 21, two days before he suffered a concussion in a collision with Yasiel Puig in the outfield. In his fourth game since returning from the disabled list, Pederson homered, doubled, walked and scored twice.

“I’ve just been trying to get comfortable since coming back,” Pederson said. “I’m just trying to swing at good pitches, slow it all down. It’s still moving a little quick, but, yeah.”

The Dodgers added another run in the third when Taylor doubled home Justin Turner. Wood completed the first four innings with 43 pitches. He tiptoed around a leadoff double in the second. He retired eight batters in a row heading into the fifth.

Once there, Wood defused another jam. He created the trouble by plunking third baseman Eugenio Suarez in the back with a fastball. Two batters later, former Dodger Jose Peraza chipped a single. The Reds had two runners on base for the first time all evening. The pair would not remain there long.

Wood flipped an 0-and-1 curveball to Mesoraco. A grounder skidded across the grass back toward the mound. Wood reached out to snatch it up, spun toward second base and slipped as he threw. The throw was still accurate enough to start an inning-ending, 1-4-3 double play.

“I’m just glad I didn’t screw things up,” Wood said.

Roberts trusted Wood to challenge the Reds hitters for a third time through the batting order. Wood has struggled in these situations in the past, and it was one of the reasons he appeared set for a bullpen role when this season began. But with his confidence soaring and his delivery synchronized, Wood has earned the opportunity to clear this hurdle. He handled it with ease Friday.

In the sixth, Wood pumped a 93-mph fastball past outfielder Billy Hamilton for a strikeout. His velocity held as the night continued. An inning later, Wood wiped out Suarez in three pitches, the last an elevated, 92-mph fastball.

The lead grew to three in the eighth. Pederson took a two-out walk. With Wood due up a batter later, backup catcher Austin Barnes took his place in the on-deck circle as Yasiel Puig faced reliever Drew Storen. Puig managed a walk, and the Reds called Roberts’ bluff. Wood would hit for himself.

The result did not disappoint. Storen threw a fastball at Wood’s waist. The swing was late, but with enough bat speed to shoot an opposite-field ground ball down the first-base line. Pederson came home, and Wood had a chance for the first shutout of his career.

The opportunity wilted when Mesoraco went deep. The homer sullied Wood’s line, but it did not change the outcome, and it did not alter the impression he has made in 2017.

“As long as I give us a chance to win, I’m happy,” Wood said. “We’re playing good baseball right now. Hopefully we’ll keep it rolling.”

Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes

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