ATLANTA — Former Braves pitchers Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz often spoke of the importance of being able to handle the bat, to consistently get a bunt down and move a runner over.
On Thursday, Alex Wood provided an example of what they were talking about, unfortunately for the Braves.
Wood threw the first complete game of his major league career, but the young left-hander failed in a sacrifice bunt attempt with Gerald Laird at second base and none out in the eighth inning of a scoreless game.
The Phillies then manufactured a run in the bottom of the eighth for a sweep-averting 1-0 win against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The Braves had a five-game winning streak snapped and boarded a bus bound for New York, where they’ll start a three-game series against the Mets on Friday.
“I felt like I threw the ball well,” said Wood (2-2), who limited the Phillies to four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in eight innings, but came away disappointed. “It definitely (stinks) that I kind of lost the game for us there in the top of the eighth.”
Laird doubled to lead off the eighth inning, and manager Fredi Gonzalez let Wood hit for himself rather than pinch-hit and go to the bullpen in the bottom of the inning.
“If you eliminate that eighth inning, both offensively and pitching-wise, he did a terrific job,” Gonzalez said.
Wood took the first pitch from reliever Antonio Bastardo for a called strike, then missed a bunt attempt on a second-pitch fastball. Bastardo struck him out swinging on the next pitch, and the Braves failed to advance the runner when Jason Heyward lined out to right field and B.J. Upton popped out to the shortstop to end the inning.
“Gerald leads off with a double and I can’t get a sac bunt down,” Wood said. “You’ve got Jason coming up, he lines one out to right field, and the game should have been 1-nothing going into the bottom of the eighth. And at that point it should have been over. Especially the way I was feeling. And with … all those guys in the bullpen.
“It’s just inexcusable. I’ve just got to work (on that).”
Wood trimmed his ERA to 1.67 and turned in the 10th start of one or no runs allowed by a Brave in 15 games this season, and their second complete game in as many days. But that botched bunt will probably linger with Wood, who has established a reputation for intensity and for being his own harshest critic.
“Those are the little things in the game that can contribute to yourself getting a win,” Laird said. “It’s one of those things where in the National League you see a lot of pitchers take pride in that… It’s one of those little things where if you can go up there and get it down you give yourself a chance for a W.
“Because he definitely pitched well enough to win this ballgame.”
Dominic Brown led off the Phillies’ eighth with a single through the left side of the infield and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. After Wood struck out Jayson Nix for the second out, pinch-hitter Ryan Howard worked the count full before drawing a walk.
Ben Revere was up next and when Wood left an 0-1 curveball over the middle of the plate, it was deposited in shallow center field, a flare of a hit that was enough to easily bring in the only run of the game.
“The one mistake I thought I made in the bottom of the eighth was letting myself get so deep in the count with Howard,” Wood said. “You can’t walk him. He’s the guy you want to face, lefty-lefty matchup right there.”