The baseball exited Alex Wood's left hand at 92 mph, destined for collision with the barrel of Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez's bat in the sixth inning of a 4-0 Dodgers victory Saturday. Upon impact the velocity jumped to 107 mph, a howler bound for the outfield. There was little time for rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger to react. Instinct guided him.
Bellinger bent to snatch the baseball out of the air. Then he stepped on the bag to conclude the double play. The combination of good fortune, studious positioning and supple hands allowed Wood to exit with a lead, and for the Dodgers to capture control of this four-game series.
Wood never saw Bellinger catch the ball. There was no time for observation. But Bellinger still earned his teammate's admiration.
"It was nice to have that," Wood said. "When the ball gets hit hard here, it's almost always a hit. When it gets soft here, most of the time, it's a hit, too."
After dropping the opener at Coors Field on Thursday, the Dodgers roared back with stalwart performances from their starting pitchers. Clayton Kershaw logged seven innings of two-run baseball Friday. Wood topped his teammate by blanking the Rockies for six innings.
The offense stitched together three runs against left-handed starter Tyler Anderson. Brett Eibner, a reserve outfielder, supplied a solo homer. Justin Turner sliced a run-scoring double in the seventh to provide protection. The club will look to claim three victories in four games here when Julio Urias takes the ball Sunday.
Wood (4-0) bored his fielders all game. He struck out 10 batters for the second start in a row and restricted the Rockies to five singles. Colorado could not advance a runner beyond second base against him. It continued a recent stretch of distinction that has earned him a chance to remain in the starting rotation, manager Dave Roberts said.
Wood faced 42 batters in his first two starts this month. He struck out 19 of them, hinting at the cohesion of his fastball, changeup and curveball. With the Dodgers adding Brandon McCarthy and Rich Hill back into the rotation next week, Wood could have been shifted back to the bullpen. Wood pitched his way out of that position.
"We have a large stable of starting pitchers, but always, performance should be rewarded," Roberts said. "For him going forward, it makes sense for him to get another start."
The Dodgers staked Wood a two-run lead in the second. The bottom half of the batting order bloodied Anderson. Enrique Hernandez led off with a double. Two batters later, Austin Barnes sent a changeup zooming over the head of center fielder Gerardo Parra. Hernandez sauntered home on the double.
Roberts gave Barnes the start in order to keep regular catcher Yasmani Grandal fresh. With four games at Coors Field, Roberts felt compelled to avoid expending all of Grandal's energy. He also hoped to benefit from Barnes' strong start to the season.
As Anderson prepared to face Eibner, Barnes took off behind him. He swiped third, which placed him in position for Wood after Eibner walked. Wood squeezed a bunt that scored Barnes.
Wood protected the advantage by avoiding contact. He fanned seven batters in the first three innings. The Rockies collected four singles early, including a leadoff hit to start the third. Wood responded by striking out outfielder Ian Desmond with a changeup, fooling third baseman Nolan Arenado with another changeup and slipping a curveball past first baseman Mark Reynolds.
"He's been doing this all year," Barnes said. "We kind of expect this from him."
Wood kept the Rockies on the ground in the fourth. Third baseman Turner sprawled into the dirt to steal a hit from shortstop Pat Valaika. Wood gloved a soft grounder by Parra to end the frame.
The offense produced a third run in the fifth. Before Saturday, Eibner had taken only seven at-bats for the Dodgers this season. Roberts wanted to see him play before early next week, when the rosters moves must be made.
"I want to gather some more information on Eibner," Roberts said before the game. "I haven't seen a whole lot of him."
Eibner acquitted himself well. Anderson fed Eibner a fastball down the middle. Eibner unleashed a drive into the pine trees beyond the center-field fence. The trajectory of the baseball caused Anderson to hunch over at the waist.
Roberts chose to stick with Wood for the sixth. In his five previous starts, Wood had pitched beyond the fifth only once. His performance tends to deteriorate after 75 pitches, a threshold he passed while walking Arenado to start the sixth.
Wood did not waver — and neither did his defense behind him. After picking up a pair of strikes with changeups, Wood pumped a chest-high, 92-mph fastball past Reynolds. Then Gonzalez lined into the double play that ended the inning.
"I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I feel really good," Wood said. "I just want to keep giving us a chance to win every time I go out. That's all I can really ask of myself."