CHICAGO -- Joe Maddon called him a dirtbag, and Travis Wood smiled.
Wood, who struggled last year after an All-Star season in 2013, picked up his first win of the year against his former team, holding the Reds to three hits over seven-plus innings in the Cubs' 5-0 victory Wednesday. The key was a well-located fastball, an aggressive mindset, and some help from his teammates.
"Early in the game, he was throwing good quality fastballs, so I decided I'm just going to stick with it until they make adjustments," Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. "Even if they do make adjustments, it was quality pitches. ... They didn't look comfortable."
Wood retired the first 10 batters he faced before walking Joey Votto with one out in the fourth. He walked one more batter and struck out seven.
"From the first inning, I could tell we had pretty good command of the fastball today, and that was the approach we took," Wood said. "I was able to keep them off-balance and get some early outs and pound the zone."
The early runs helped -- Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the first -- plus some stellar defense, including a key double play ignited by shortstop Starlin Castro in the eighth.
Wood improved to 3-5 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 career starts against the Reds, who drafted him in 2005. He has not given up a run to the Reds in his last three starts against them, covering a span of 19 innings.
"We've seen him a lot and he's thrown the ball good against us at times," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "That was as well as I've seen him, those first seven innings, since 2010, when he had a real nice year for us in Cincinnati."
In 2010, his first season in the big leagues, Wood was 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA in 17 starts. But 2013 was when the lefty shined, posting a 3.11 ERA in 32 starts, and notching quality starts in 24 of those outings.
Maddon has heard about how Wood seems to be on a mission.
"I've talked about his athleticism, the competitive nature he has," Maddon said. "He's a baseball player. He's one of those throwback dudes. You talk to him and there's no nonsense. He really does everything well."
That includes hitting. Wood wants to be the first one called upon if needed. He smacked two pinch-hit home runs this spring, and on Wednesday, he singled in the seventh.
"He's different," Maddon said. "As pitchers go, you could label him as a dirtbag. I love that phrase when you're talking about a good baseball player."