Alex Wood is coming home to start Game 3 of the NL Division Series at Dodger Stadium. For the Giants.
The ex-Dodgers pitcher gets the ball Monday night against Los Angeles ace Max Scherzer with the best-of-five series tied at a game apiece.
“I look at it as a chance to prove something to myself,” Wood said Sunday.
Wood was a key member of the Dodgers’ bullpen in their run to the World Series championship last year after rejoining the team on a one-year deal.
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“I don't think we win the World Series last year without him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Wood became a free agent after the season and was eager to become a starter again.
“I could have come back here for sure,” he said. “But they got a lot of good young arms that are the future of the Dodgers.”
In January, he signed with the rival Giants.
Wood was 10-4 with a 3.83 ERA in 26 regular-season starts. In three outings against his former team, the left-hander had a pair of 1-0 losses and a no-decision. He pitched six innings in each of the first two outings, allowing two runs and four runs. In his third outing, he was tagged for three runs.
“They know me really well,” Wood said. “Just got to go out and execute, play the chess match.”
With so much familiarity between the Dodgers and Wood, Roberts said any edge comes down to the day.
“That's what's going to be fun, to see how it goes,” the manager said. "Is he going to go fastball to get ahead or is he going to throw a curve ball to steal a strike? In an even count is he going fastball to trick us or is he going to go with his strength, the changeup? Ultimately, it just comes down to execution.”
Scherzer will be on full rest for his 24th career postseason start after pitching in last week's NL wild-card game against St. Louis. The three-time Cy Young Award winner wasn’t particularly sharp, but held the Cardinals to one run over 4 1/3 innings.
The right-hander was dominant in his first nine games with the Dodgers after coming over from Washington at the July trade deadline, but he was less effective in each of his last three starts. He gave up five earned runs in each of his final two regular-season starts, then struggled with his command in the wild-card game.
“The last three he hasn’t performed the way he expects,” Roberts said. “I just expect him to throw the ball extremely well tomorrow night.”
After the wild-card game, the Dodgers' pitching and player performance staff reviewed Scherzer's delivery and detected something amiss.
“Just kind of clean up my mechanics a little bit,” Scherzer said. “I thought we identified something on the lower half that I can kind of grab on to, and threw a bullpen with it, felt pretty good.”
Scherzer hasn't faced the Giants as much as his teammates, but he understands the deep-seated dislike between the teams' fans.
“Our Dodger fan base definitely wants us to beat the Giants,” he said. “It’s personal to them, so it’s personal to us.”
Wood will be making his 21st postseason start. He has a 3.55 career playoff ERA.
The Giants need to win one of the next two games in LA to force the series back to San Francisco for a fifth and deciding game. They won 4-0 in Game 1 and the Dodgers' bats came alive in Game 2 to produce a 9-2 victory.
Wood was the obvious choice with so much on the line. He's come up big for the Giants following a loss, with the team going 12-1.
“It’s a combination of the stuff, talent and preparation. He's thinking about a game four, five, six days out,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Of course, the experience is always valuable.”
Wood has the benefit of experience and comfort in Dodger Stadium. He spent four seasons with the Dodgers, coming of age as a starter in their rotation after being drafted by the Atlanta Braves.
“A lot of good memories here, a lot of postseason runs,” Wood said.
He was an All-Star in 2017, when he began the season in the bullpen and moved into the rotation after Rich Hill got injured. Wood became the first Dodgers pitcher to start a season 10-0 since Don Newcombe in 1955. He started one game in both the NL Championship Series and World Series that year and then came back and pitched two innings of shutout relief in Game 7. The Dodgers lost to the Houston Astros, whose cheating scandal was later revealed.
Notes: 1B Albert Pujols will make his first postseason start for the Dodgers in Game 3. ... Chris Taylor will start in center field, giving the Dodgers another right-handed bat against Wood. ... Neither Kapler nor Roberts named their starters for Game 4 on Tuesday.
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