Sweetest relief: Perfect day for Cubs' bullpen

Wood gets things going with 4 innings after Hammel exits early due to cramp

Sweetest relief: Perfect day for Cubs' bullpen

CHICAGO -- Travis Wood was sitting on a couch in the Cubs' clubhouse at the start of the Dodgers' third inning on Monday when Jason Hammel went down with a cramp in his right hamstring.

"I looked in the dugout and I saw [Wood] and I pointed at him, and he said, 'Me?' and I said, 'Yeah, let's go,'" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's how his day began."

"It was early [in the game]," Wood said, explaining why he was on a comfy couch and not sitting in the sun in the bullpen. "I always come in for the first couple innings, watch the game. Luckily, we have the live [TV] feed. I was out there [in the dugout] before I was needed. I figured they needed somebody so I ran out. I heard 'Cahill' so I started to run back in to get [Trevor] Cahill, and then I thought they might change their mind, so I came back out and they ended up changing their mind."

Maddon made the right choice. The lefty threw four perfect innings and combined with Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon on a one-hitter, shutting down the Dodgers, 2-0. The last time a team threw a one-hitter in a game the starting pitcher went two innings or fewer was Sept. 3, 2002, when the Rangers one-hit Baltimore despite starter Aaron Myette being ejected without recording an out. The Astros threw a combined no-hitter against the Yankees on June 11, 2003, after starter Roy Oswalt exited following just one inning due to a groin injury.

"It was truly Travis Wood's day," Maddon said. "He set that whole game up."

The bullpen was well rested heading into Monday's game. Kyle Hendricks had thrown a complete game Saturday against the Phillies and John Lackey followed that with seven innings on Sunday. Monday's game was only the second time this season that a Cubs starter was unable to go past the third inning.

Maddon hoped to get two innings out of Wood. Instead, the lefty, who began last season in the Cubs' rotation, needed 43 pitches to retire the Dodgers over four innings.

"He was so pitch efficient, he permitted us to do what we did, pure and simple," Maddon said of Wood.

Wood also may have inspired the other Cubs relievers.

"I believe what he did set it up for the rest of the bullpen," Maddon said. "The rest of the guys were very efficient. They saw Travis go out there and do it, so here comes 'Grimmer' and here comes 'Stroopy' and here comes 'Ronnie.' Good pitches, good location, good stuff, but Travis set the tone for the whole thing."

"I love our bullpen," Cubs catcher David Ross said. "Those guys are very impressive to me."

Wood's outing was the longest by a Cubs reliever since Clayton Richard threw four innings last Sept. 13 against Philadelphia. It's the first time the Chicago bullpen has pitched at least seven innings without giving up a hit since Sept. 26, 1948, against St. Louis.

Wood has accepted his role as a reliever. As far as he is concerned, his job hasn't changed.

"They call your name, and it's still pitching," Wood said. "Go out there and make your pitches, get the guys out and help your team any way you can."

"As a relief pitcher, I think he could pitch for the next 10 years," Maddon said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.