Left-hander earns second postseason win with 1 1/3 scoreless out of 'pen
By Jenifer Langosch
CHICAGO -- More than 50 percent of the runs scored this postseason have come via the long ball. None of those home runs, however, had been quite as unexpected as Travis Wood's 393-foot blast into the left-center-field bleachers to punctuate the Cubs' 5-2 victory over the Giants at Wrigley Field on Saturday night.
Thrust into early relief in Game 2 of the National League Division Series because of an injury to starter Kyle Hendricks, Wood became the second reliever in postseason history to go deep when he crushed a first-pitch cutter from Giants reliever George Kontos in the fourth.
"That was amazing," marveled catcher Willson Contreras. "Nobody expects a pitcher to come off the bench and hit a homer. That's unbelievable."
With the solo shot, Wood joined Kerry Wood (2003) and Rick Sutcliffe (1984) as the only Cubs pitchers to homer in a postseason game. He joined even rarer company by going deep after coming out of the bullpen. It had happened only once previously in postseason history, when Rosy Ryan of the New York Giants homered against the Washington Senators in Game 3 of the 1924 World Series.
"It was a special moment for me personally," Wood said after earning his second career postseason win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings on the mound. "I figured he was probably going to start me out with a cutter, and I made a good swing on it."
Wood's homer, which put the Cubs ahead, 5-2, was also the first hit by a pitcher in any postseason game since Joe Blanton went deep in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series for the Phillies.
"The one pitch I didn't execute and left up, it went right into his bat, and he didn't miss it," Kontos said. "I made one mistake and they capitalized. That's playoff baseball for you."
Wood's home run came off his bat at 101.5 mph, according to Statcast™ projections. It was Wood's second-hardest-hit ball of the season and the second-longest home run hit by a Cubs pitcher in 2016.
It wasn't by accident that Wood was hitting in that spot, either. In weighing who would replace Hendricks, manager Joe Maddon wanted to ensure it was someone who could put together a competitive at-bat. The pitcher's spot was due up second in the bottom half of the fourth, and Maddon wanted to avoid utilizing a pinch-hitter.
And so he went with Wood, a starter-turned-reliever who has been among the league's more capable hitting pitchers for years. Even though his offensive opportunities have tailed off due to a change in role, Wood has more regular-season home runs (nine) than any active pitcher other than Madison Bumgarner (14) and Yovani Gallardo (12).
"He takes his batting practice," Maddon said. "He looks for those opportunities, and then he seized it today."
Wood's first career postseason homer extended a string of production from the ninth spot in the Cubs' order on Saturday. Hendricks had earlier driven in a pair with a second-inning single. At the time, it boosted the Cubs' lead to three.
Jenifer Langosch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.