Wood sheds woes

Tribune staff reporter

Cubs manager Don Baylor summed it up very simply.

"Pitching," he said of Kerry Wood, "was real easy for him today."

Hitting wasn't much of a challenge for Wood, either. He singled twice in four at-bats to provide the frosting for the Cubs' 8-0 victory over St. Louis.

Wood was so impressive Tuesday, Baylor didn't even consider pulling him after eight innings and 103 pitches.

When Wood stepped to the plate in the eighth, what remained of the hearty Wrigley Field crowd of 35,748 serenaded him with chants of "Kerry! Kerry!"

"That was great," said Wood, who allowed just four hits. "It gives me an extra shot of adrenaline when they're on their feet screaming."

Wood didn't get the curtain call that was bestowed upon Mark Prior, who dazzled the crowd at Triple-A Iowa with two home runs and a dominant pitching performance. But the two outings were enough to provide a fresh wave of optimism on the North Side.

After starting the season 8-17, the Cubs have won five of six games. Tuesday's rout marked their first three-game winning streak.

"We had some shocking injuries early and it takes some time to get over that," catcher Joe Girardi said. "Now we're getting our lineup set and guys are understanding their roles.

"When you're losing a lot, it's hard to be upbeat. And when you're struggling at the beginning of the season, it's more alarming. If you go 0-for-10 during the season, your average drops 20 points. If it's at the beginning of the season, it drops 200 points."

Six Cubs earned hits over the first two innings as the Cubs rocked lefty Bud Smith for eight runs.

Smith hit Corey Patterson to start the first inning before walking Bill Mueller and Sammy Sosa. Fred McGriff blooped a single to right to put the Cubs on the board.

Alex Gonzalez contributed the backbreaking blow in the second. With the bases loaded, he ripped a 3-2 changeup to left-center to drive in three runs.

"I knew I had to be patient," he said. "He has some good off-speed pitches that I didn't want to chase. I got a pitch that was high enough to drive."

After Augie Ojeda's RBI single put the Cubs ahead 8-0, Wood shifted into cruise control.

"I didn't want to change my mind-set," said Wood, who struck out nine and walked a season-low two. "Go after guys. I threw a lot of fastballs and had a good changeup."

Wood made a minor mechanical change in his delivery that helped him avoid throwing against his body. The first seven pitches he threw were strikes. Of 115 pitches, 72 were strikes.

"Woody has such electric stuff," Girardi said. "Sometimes you have to be on your toes. But he was pretty much hitting my glove all night."

And that was enough to encourage Baylor to let Wood earn his third career shutout.

"There was really never any question he would go out there," Baylor said. "He never looked at [pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] or me. He just grabbed his bat and wanted to hit."

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