Travis Wood looks like his All-Star self in Cubs’ victory
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Sports Reporter June 15, 2014 3:22PM
Updated: June 15, 2014 9:57PM
PHILADELPHIA — It’s hard to find much significance in a mid-June baseball game between last-place teams who are confirmed sellers as they roll toward the trade deadline July 31.
But at least for a day — maybe the whole weekend — the Cubs had to like where they sit in their long-term process compared to the aging, $180 million Philadelphia Phillies.
Especially when so-called pre-prime players such as Travis Wood, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro take over in a 3-0 victory Sunday against a team of fading All-Stars whose weekend highlight was 34-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ franchise-record-setting hit Saturday.
For the few players in the clubhouse who figure to still be there after the deadline — maybe even beyond this season — it even carried the feeling of being a little closer to reaching the vision of this painful rebuild.
“We’re definitely closer,” said Wood (7-5), who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and threw eight scoreless innings.
“We’re playing good ball right now. We’re not looking sloppy. We’re making plays. We’re hitting. We’re moving runners over. So that’s all you can ask really.”
Never mind asking for a few more dollars for players or the quicker development of a few prospects.
For now, they’ll take their first road series victory since the second week of September in Cincinnati as they head to Miami to finish the 10-game trip.
They also will take Wood looking more like the pitcher who represented the Cubs in the All-Star game last year than the pitcher who was shelled by the White Sox and Brewers last month and took a 4.95 ERA into the game.
“I’ve had two really bad ones that stick out,” said Wood, who made a priority coming out of spring training to back up his remarkably consistent 2013 season. “You’ve got to shrug them off. I know I can pitch. You shrug them off and keep battling. I’m the same guy.”
The top All-Star candidates this year, pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, are expected to be long gone by August. A slew of scouts who watched the game Sunday will shift to Miami to watch those two pitch the next two days.
After that, the Cubs will lean on days like this and the small victories they represent, such as the continued development of Rizzo (14th home run) and Castro (three hits, RBI).
NOTES: Manager Rick Renteria said closer Hector Rondon felt fine Sunday, the day after testing his sore elbow in a throwing session, and was available to pitch. But Renteria said he wanted to give Rondon, who hasn’t pitched since June 6, one more day. Rookie Neil Ramirez earned his second save of the series.
◆ Luis Valbuena, who took a .390 on-base percentage into the game, was the third leadoff man Renteria used in three games since Emilio Bonifacio went on the disabled list (oblique). Chris Coghlan, Junior Lake and Valbuena went 1-for-12 combined with five strikeouts and no walks.