When Alex Wood roared through August with a major league-leading 0.90 ERA in five starts, it was tempting to believe the Braves rookie had skipped right over the usual growing pains and become a bona fide major league ace.
Sunday was a reminder that Wood is barely a year removed from pitching for the University of Georgia, and still has plenty to learn and adjustments to make as major league teams get a second look at the left-hander with the funky delivery.
The Marlins knocked him around for eight hits and seven runs in just 2-1/3 innings, and beat the Braves 7-0 to snap their six-game winning streak before a crowd of 38,441 at Turner Field.
“I was out of synch and not really following my game plan, and they put good swings on the ball,” said Wood, who allowed five runs in the third inning before he was replaced. “You’ve got to give them credit, they beat me like a drum today.”
The loss was only the fourth in the past 22 home games for the Braves, whose magic number to clinch the National League East remained 13 pending the outcome of the second-place Nationals’ game Sunday night against the Mets. The Braves are 5-1 in a nine-game homestand that concludes with a three-game series against the Mets starting Monday afternoon.
Hard-throwing Marlins right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (3-5) allowed seven hits in eight innings for the Marlins for his first win in nine starts since the All-Star break.
Wood made his ninth major league start and second against Miami. He had also faced them twice in relief, and the Marlins got only five hits in nine scoreless innings against him before Sunday, with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
“In the major leagues everybody’s got videos, everybody’s got scouts,” Gonzalez said. “They’re going to make adjustments and you’re going to have to make adjustments. But I thought he just left some balls out over the plate.”
The Braves’ huge division lead and 20-7 record in August overshadowed the fact that their pitching has largely carried the team recently while the offense has sputtered at times, particularly since Jason Heyward’s jaw was broken Aug. 21 when struck by a fastball from the Mets’ Jonathan Niese.
They won 20 games in August while hitting just .245 and scoring three runs or fewer in 15 of 27 games. The Braves hit .236 in their past 12 games before Sunday, when they scored two or fewer runs for the seventh time in 13 games.
They’ve pulled out a lot of close wins lately on the strength of their top-rated bullpen and just enough timely hits. But there was no chance for the bullpen to keep the game close Sunday.
“It’s been a while since I got beat that bad,” said Wood, who had as many runs allowed (seven) as outs recorded, and finished with two walks and two strikeouts. “Actually I can’t remember the last time I had a day like today.
“Just got to get back up on the horse and get ready to go for my next outing.”
The bright spot for the Braves was 36-year-old Freddy Garcia, who arrived from Triple-A on Sunday morning and pitched 4-2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Wood.
“He did a nice job navigating through that lineup,” Gonzalez said. “Take a little off, put a little on, spin it … you could see the experience. He didn’t panic in certain situations, and he really saved our bullpen today. Good for him and good for us.”
After giving up a Jeff Mathis homer in the second inning, Wood allowed consecutive singles to start the third, then a one-out walk against Placido Polanco to load the bases. Donovan Solano followed with a one-run single and Ed Lucas singled up the middle to drive in two runs.
Wood walked No. 7 hitter Jake Marisnick before Mathis doubled off the left-center wall. That was all for the young lefty.
The Marlins lost six in a row and 10 of 11 before Sunday. Someone mentioned to Wood how veteran players say baseball will humble you quickly.
“Oh, yeah, it’s a game of failure,” said Wood, who allowed just 20 hits and three runs in 30 innings of five August starts. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a good last month. I still feel really confident about my stuff and my abilities.”