Cubs fan Kerry Wood saw big hits off Dodgers’ Kershaw coming
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Kerry Wood had this idea in his head as he made his way toward Wrigley Field for Saturday’s Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
The idea was a little out there. Or strangely naïve, for a former star pitcher who has been there, done that. Given the Cubs’ history of disappointment in October — and Wood’s own experience as the guy who tried, and failed, to clinch an NLCS in Game 7 in 2003 — it might even have been a bit brazen.
Or just plain nuts.
“I could feel it, though,” Wood said during the celebration in the Cubs clubhouse after Saturday’s 5-0 thrill-fest against the Dodgers. “Coming to the game, I told some buddies, ‘We’re going to get four runs on (Dodgers ace Clayton) Kershaw by the third inning.’ ”
Four runs off the best pitcher in baseball — the same guy who didn’t let Cubs batters breathe in a dominant Game 2 performance — by the third inning?
And what else were the Cubs going to do? Cure the common cold by the fifth?
It’s not as if Wood was envisioning something unprecedented. Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young winner, gave up four runs in the first three innings precisely once all season.
But once is a fluke. Once is a shot in the dark. Once is another way of saying: This basically never happens.
Turns out Wood was wrong, anyway. The Cubs scored two in the first and one in the second, but none in the third. Still, they ended with five runs off Kershaw and chased him after five innings.
Wood saw it coming, then sat in the stands and saw it happen. To Wood — the 1998 National League Rookie of the Year and the fastest major league pitcher to 1,000 strikeouts — it was a combination of a good offensive plan and some uncharacteristically shaky stuff from Kershaw.
Dexter Fowler’s double to lead off the bottom of the first gave Wood the feeling Kershaw was on the ropes already.
“Guys came out hot, with Fowler leading us off,” he said. “Obviously, Kershaw didn’t have his curveball and didn’t feel comfortable with his breaking stuff. It looked like we took advantage of that. It looked like we were sitting fastball and got him and put some runs on the board early.”
The “we” word comes out often when Wood, 39, is speaking of the Cubs, with whom he spent all but two years of his big-league career. Fans remember him for his 20-strikeout game as a rookie, his electric arm talent, the heartbreak of 2003, the injuries that robbed him of his potential greatness.
But what really lasts are the bonds made. For Wood, they were made with teammates, fans, the neighborhood, the city.
He’s a Cubs fan, for crying out loud.
“It’s amazing what this team has done,” he said, “what they’ve done for the city, for the organization. It was a mind-blowing experience being out there with the crowd and (the Cubs) doing it.
“They’re such good guys, and they get the game. They get it, and they’re young and hungry — they want it. They don’t listen to the history. It doesn’t bother them.”
Did we mention that one of the other teams Wood pitched for was the Cleveland Indians? It’s true. Wood was with the Cubs’ upcoming World Series foe in 2009 and part of 2010.
His loyalties won’t be the least bit divided in the days to come.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.