Wood’s effort wasted, Braves lose 2-1 to Rangers

DALLAS – Since the Braves had totaled just 26 runs in their previous 11 games, and the Rangers had managed a meager 24 runs in their past 12, Friday’s interleague series opener ceretainly didn’t figure to be a high-scoring affair.

And then there was the fact that Alex Wood was pitching for the Braves, virtually assuring that they wouldn’t score more than two while the young left-hander was in the game, no matter how well he pitched.

Sure enough, the Braves wasted another stellar start from Wood, who pitched seven strong innings before David Carpenter gave up a run on three consecutive two-out hits in the eighth inning to give the Rangers a 2-1 win over the Braves in a series opener at Globe Life Park.

“It’s hard to win games (scoring) one run,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves fell to three games behind Pittsburgh and in the race for the second and final National League wild-card spot, with only 15 games to go. The Braves also fell to 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in that race.

The Rangers, who have baseball’s worst record and had lost 11 of their past 12, but they beat a Braves team that’s hit .211 while losing eight of its past 12. The Braves went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position Friday, a key area that’s undermined them all season.

Texas left-hander Derek Holland allowed eight hits and one run in seven innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. No out was bigger than his strikeout of Justin Upton with bases loaded and one out in the third inning, on a 3-2 changeup in the dirt.

“I’m trying to get him to chase,” Holland said. “It was 3-2, if he takes it maybe it’s a different game.”

Wood got no decision after giving up four hits and one run in seven innings, with two walks and nine strikeouts. He has a 1.88 ERA in his past nine starts, but only a 3-2 record in those games. The Braves scored two or fewer runs while he was seven of those games, and they lost five of the nine.

“That’s not really how I look at it,” he said of the poor run support. “We’re heading down the stretch here, you know? So the only thing frustrating is us not getting W’s as a team. Right now everything matters. We’re grinding, we’re battling. That was a pretty good pitcher on the hill for them tonight, so sometimes that’s how it shakes out, especially in their park on the road after an off day. Holland did a heck of a job.”

Remarkably, Wood has a 1-4 record in seven games this season in which he allowed four or fewer hits in seven or more innings.

“It’s unbelievable, some of the numbers,” Gonzalez said. “It doesn’t bother him, he’ll come back out the next time and give you another chance to win a game. We had some opportunities. We had some opportunities early on, we had bases loaded one out, and then we had (runners at) first and third with one out.”

Carpenter retired the first two batters in the eighth inning before giving up singles to Adrian Beltre, Ryan Rua and Robinson Chirinos, a catcher who entered Friday’s game with a .232 batting average and 33 RBIs.

“It stinks because Woody pitched his butt off again and we spoil a real good outing,” Carpenter said. “That’s a tough loss against a team that’s had some tough luck this year. We were hoping to come in here and try to put up some wins. But we’ve got to come back the next two days just prepared to grind it out and try to get two.”

Wood is only 3-2 in his past nine starts despite a 1.88 ERA. He pitched six or more innings while allowing six or fewer hits in each of those starts, and gave two or fewer earned runs in eight of those games including one or none in five.

“To me, Woody’s been pitching like a man on a mission,” Braves right fielder Jason Heyward said. “Hat’s off to him for that, coming out and competing, One-run ballgame there. Came down to the bullpen, and they got it done with two outs.”

He has a 2.46 ERA in 15 starts since returning to the rotation, and only five wins in that span (he’s 10-10 for the season).

Holland has given up two runs and no walks in 21 innings since coming off the disabled list, after missing most of the season recovering from microfracture knee surgery following an accident in which tripped over his dog and fell down some stairs.

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the third inning after consecutive singles from B.J. Upton and Andrelton Simmons to start the inning. Heyward grounded into a force at second and hustled to avoid the double play, giving him an RBI.

Freddie Freeman bounced a single up the middle to load the bases with one out, and the Braves did what they’ve done too frequently in similar situations. Justin Upton struck out and Ryan Doumit grounded out to end the inning, stranding the runners.

“The guy knows what he’s doing on the mound,” Heyward said of Holland. “He’s got good stuff. He knows when to make a pitch, how to make it – he did what he had to do.”

They had another opportunity to add to the lead in the fifth after getting singles from Simmons and Heyward to start the inning. But Phil Gosselin struck out and Freeman grounded sharply into a double play to end the inning and make the Braves 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position through five innings.

Six major league teams had a worse batting average with runners in scoring than the Braves’ .243 before Friday, and none of those six had a record within 10 games of .500.

Wood retired the first eight batters before Daniel Robertson’s two-out single in the third. He had faced only 10 batters through three innings before running into a fourth-inning jam that resulted from sudden control problems.

The Rangers had runners at first and second and none out after Elvis Andrus drew a leadoff walk and J.P. Arencibia was hit by a pitch. But the Rangers and Andrus, even though he’s a shortstop, might not have seen the Braves enough to be aware of a back-door pickoff move that they like to pull occasionally with shortstop Simmons.

Wood is particularly proficient at the move, and so with Beltre batting the left-hander spun and threw to Simmons, who tagged Andrus as he dove and reached back to the base with his hand. Wood struck out Beltre before Rua doubled to left field, with Arencibia stopping at third rather than test the arm of relay man Simmons.

Another walk loaded the bases, but Wood escaped unscathed by inducing a ground out from Rougned Odor. He had protected the 1-0 lead despite facing six batters in the inning, walking two, hitting one and giving up a double.

Wood wasn’t able to pull off the feat again in the sixth inning, after a leadoff double from Arencibia on a hard-hit grounder down the third-base line. Beltre singled to put runners on the corners and Rua’s ground out drove in the tying run.

“Our pitching staff’s doing a tremendous job, just giving up two and getting some losses,” Gonzalez said. “Just keep going. There’s nothing (else to do). Keep going and putting guys in position, and see what happens.”