Wood shows mettle in best outing for Dodgers

Starter throws seven scoreless innings vs. Padres

Wood shows mettle in best outing for Dodgers

SAN DIEGO -- About three weeks after he was acquired by the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline, Alex Wood stopped by the office of manager Don Mattingly. The two had a conversation during which Wood made it clear he wanted to be a "workhorse," whom Mattingly could trust in late-inning pressure situations.

Sure enough, Mattingly displayed that level of confidence in his starting pitcher during Saturday night's 2-0 victory over the Padres. With a man on second base and two outs in the seventh, Mattingly opted to stick with Wood with a one-run lead. That faith paid off when Yangervis Solarte flied weakly to right field, completing Wood's seven shutout innings -- his best outing as a Dodger.

"As a starter, that's what you pride yourself on -- going deep into ballgames, giving guys the best chance to win," said Wood. "[I was] able to show them that's who I could be tonight."

The Dodgers acquired Wood from Atlanta in the hopes that he'd add some depth to a very top-heavy starting rotation. With the struggles of Mat Latos -- who came over from Miami in he same three-team trade -- Wood could be positioning himself for a postseason start, something he's never done before.

Understandably, Wood didn't want to get into the possibility, saying, "When we get to that time, we get to that time." But Wood acknowledged that jumping from a sub-.500 ballclub into the heart of a pennant race has rejuvenated him a little bit.

"It doesn't get much better than that," Wood said. "I've experienced it a little bit before. My first year in Atlanta, I ended up coming out of the bullpen in the postseason. But from a starting standpoint, when you get to September, and you're in the hunt like we are ... then it's go-time."

One of the Dodgers' fatal flaws over the past two postseasons has been a lack of rotation depth. On two occasions, ace Clayton Kershaw was forced to start on three days' rest.

Whether Wood is a guy the Dodgers will trust in, say, Game 4 of the NLDS, is a question for a later date. Obviously, first the Dodgers have to get there. And if they do, the situation may dictate the club's decision, more than anything else.

But more starts like Saturday night's aren't going to hurt Wood's case.

"When he was with Atlanta, there were a couple games where we had him in trouble, and he kind of just hangs in there," Mattingly said. "There have been a few games where we didn't think he was coming back out, and he did. That competitiveness has always been there."

The best example of Wood's ability to escape came in the bottom of the sixth inning after he surrendered a leadoff walk to Matt Kemp and ran the count full on Padres cleanup man Justin Upton. Wood executed a perfect step-off move, picking off Kemp at first, before striking out Upton on the following pitch.

Wood picks off Kemp

"You could go first and second, no outs. Instead you get one out, and then you punch him out and get two outs in a matter of 30 seconds," Wood said. "I thought that was the big turning point."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.