Wood helps Braves win 12th straight

Second-round pick strikes out eight over five solid innings

By Jonathan Raymond / Special to MLB.com | August 3, 2012 9:44 PM ET

When your team builds a winning streak of 11 games, you don't want to be the guy that keeps it from getting to 12. Fortunately for Alex Wood, he was in no danger of being that guy.

The Braves' second-round pick in this year's Draft allowed a run on two hits and struck out eight over five innings Friday as Class A Rome beat Kannapolis, 9-1, for its team-record 12th consecutive victory.

"We're pitching well and we're hitting well. When you combine those two it's pretty deadly," Wood said. "It's kind of like we don't even know how to lose right now, we're just playing great baseball.

"I was a little nervous tonight, thinking, 'Dang, I hope I'm not that guy [that ends it].' But I bogged them down a little bit, didn't let them get much going. And we've got another great pitcher, A.J. Holland, going [Saturday] night."

With eight strikeouts, Wood doubled his previous high of four. In his last four starts, he's allowed two runs on five hits over 18 innings, fanning 14 batters and walking four.

Overall, the 21-year-old left-hander is 2-2 with a 1.80 ERA in eight starts, looking strong since his June 25 professional debut. He features a three-pitch mix of fastball, curve and changeup, generally working between 92-94 mph while occasionally touching 95 or 96.

And Wood has handled the pressure of being a local product out of the University of Georgia.

"More times than not, I've got a few friends [at the games], some people I know from my three years at UGA," he said. "Obviously, you go from the best conference in the country in baseball to pro baseball, and that's what everybody asks, how it compares.

"Pitching to wood bats instead of metal bats, I feel like it helps a little bit. The hitters have to earn what they get. Here, if you make a quality pitch, you're probably going to get the result you want. The difference is these guys, if you make a mistake, they won't miss it. That's the biggest difference for me. I also gain a few more hours a day at the baseball field instead of class; don't have a problem with that."

Rome's winning streak dates back to July 23. During that stretch, the Braves have outscored opponents, 87-34. Wood said that for him and his teammates, it's been a pretty enjoyable ride.

"We have a great bunch of guys, we're all pretty close friends," he added. "It's an exciting time and we're just trying to make everybody proud. It's been great."

Every year, Georgia and Georgia Tech play against each other at Atlanta's Turner Field. Wood said he never got the chance to toe the rubber in one of those games, but for now, at least, he's on the right track to get his chance.

"I'm throwing pretty well, lucky to have a pitching coach like Derrick Lewis who's taught me well," he said. "The biggest challenge is to figure out how to progress and so far, that's been good. I'm excited with where I'm at, where I'm going."

In support of Wood, Ross Heffley slugged a three-run homer and Robby Hefflinger doubled twice and plated a pair of runs. Ryan Query chipped in two hits and two RBIs.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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