Alex Wood was surprised when Don Mattingly approached to shake his hand Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
“I kind of started pulling it back a little bit,” Wood recalled with a laugh.
The handshake with the manager traditionally marks the end of a starting pitcher’s night. In this case, the gesture felt premature.
“He looked at me kind of funny,” Mattingly said.
While deprived of the chance to throw his first complete game of the season, Wood nonetheless pitched his finest game in a Dodgers uniform, blanking the Colorado Rockies over eight innings of a 2-0 victory.
The left-hander gave up only one hit, a two-out single to Kyle Wood in the second inning. No other Rockies player reached base against Wood, who retired the last 19 batters he faced.
“Baseball’s a funny game, right?” Wood said. “Obviously, my worst one of the year, the last time out.”
That start five days earlier against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field was arguably the worst of his career, as Wood was charged with eight runs and eight hits in 12/3 innings.
His spectacular recovery allowed the Dodgers to maintain their 71/2-game lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West. The magic number for the Dodgers to secure their third consecutive division title was reduced to 10.
For Wood (11-10), the four days between his last start and this one felt like an eternity.
“Usually when you have starts like my last one, you don’t get much sleep in between,” he said. “You’re kind of chomping at the bit to get back out there and redeem yourself. You definitely want to get back out there the next time and turn it around.”
Effectively delivering his fastball to both sides of the plate and mixing in his changeup, Wood recorded 13 ground-ball outs.
“Seemed like he had them off-stride all night long,” Mattingly said. “Nobody was really squaring him up.”
Mattingly said he wasn’t surprised by Wood’s response.
“He’s a competitive guy,” Mattingly said. “Usually, that’s what you get with guys that compete. They get beat up a little bit, they’re not going to go hide in a corner.”
Mattingly saw Wood’s competitive instincts when he told him he was removing him from the game. Wood’s pitch count was only 78 at the time.
Mattingly said he would have allowed Wood to return to the mound for the ninth inning if the Dodgers were ahead by four runs. With the lead at two, Mattingly wasn’t taking any chances. He called on Kenley Jansen, who recorded his 32nd save.
Wood laughed as he recalled the scene.
“I wasn’t going to fight too hard, especially after my last one,” he said.
Plus, he added, “We’re trying to clinch. The ninth inning, as everybody knows, is Kenley’s, for the most part.”
Wood’s performance was particularly timely, considering the Dodgers fell to the Rockies in 16 innings the previous night, using 10 relievers in a game that ended past midnight.
Furthermore, the marathon game prompted Mattingly to field the kind of lineup Wednesday that he acknowledged was “weird.”
Wanting to hold Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner out of the starting lineup, Mattingly batted 21-year-old rookie Corey Seager at cleanup. He played third-string catcher Austin Barnes at second base and second baseman Chase Utley at first. Alex Guerrero started at third base for the first time in more than a month.
“You have a lot of guys in there who haven’t been in there,” Mattingly conceded.
Predictably, offensive production was limited.
Catcher A.J. Ellis blasted a solo home run in the second inning off Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa to move the Dodgers in front, 1-0. The Dodgers doubled their advantage to 2-0 in the sixth inning when Seager singled to right field to drive in Barnes.
On this night, that was enough.
Right-hander Zack Greinke (17-3, 1.61 ERA) will face left-hander Jeff Locke (8-10, 4.43) and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday at 7 p.m. at Dodger Stadium. TV: Sports-
Net LA; Radio: 570, 1020.