By HAL McCOY
The long, long wait for Alex Wood appears worth it to the Cincinnati Reds, at least for one night.
Wood made his second start of the season and shut down the homer-happy Atlanta Braves Friday night in Sun Trust Park, 5-2.
The only damage done to Wood on this night was a pair of solo home runs by Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna, Jr. The one blasted by Acuna traveled 463 feet, the 26th home run for the Braves’ leadoff hitter. But it only counted for one.
Wood was acquired in the off-season in the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought him, Yasiel Puig and Kyle Farmer to the Reds for Homer Bailey.
But spring training barely began when Wood encountered back problems that kept him off the mound until a week ago.
And one wonders what might have been, what things would look like if Wood pitched the entire season. Tyler Mahle replaced him in the rotation and went 2-and-10, with the Reds losing 15 of his 19 starts.
Wood had a familiar face as his batterymate and they clicked like a Rolex. Wood and Farmer were college teammates at the University of Georgia, teammates with the Dodgers and they were part of each other’s weddings.
This, though, was the first time Farmer caught the guy he calls his brother. In addition to calling a solid game, Farmer contributed two hits and scored a run.
Wood held the Braves to two runs, those solo home runs, four hits, walked one and struck out six in 6 2/3 innings. With two outs and nobody on in the seventh, acting manager Freddie Benavides removed him after his 93rd pitch.
Offensively, the Reds quickly gave Wood a 5-0 lead and were up to old tricks in the first inning.
Atlanta starter Kevin Gausman, 3-and-7 with a 6.19 earned run average, is a two-pitch pony, a fastball and a cutter. And his fastball reaches only the low 90’s.
The Reds took advantage of Guasman’s early command problems. Jesse Winker led the game with a single and Joey Votto reached the right field seats with his 11th home run.
That gave Wood a 2-0 lead before his first pitch as the Reds continued their modus operandi of leading the majors in runs scored in the first inning and home runs hit in the first inning.
The Reds added a run in the third on singles by Votto and Eugenio Suarez and a fielder’s choice ground ball by Josh VanMeter.
Jose Peraza and Farmer opened the fourth with back-to-back singles that led to two runs.
One scored on Jesse Winker’s fielder’s choice. The second scored on Votto’s sacrifice fly to right. The Braves, though, believed Farmer left third base too soon.
They appealed the play at third base and it was ruled Farmer did not leave too soon. But while that was transpiring, Winker started for second base and inexplicably stopped halfway. When he resumed his trip he was too late and thrown out at second to end the inning.
The Reds didn’t score again after the fourth inning and frittered a chance in the ninth. Former University of Dayton pitcher Jerry Blevins, a 35-year-old left hander, walked two with one out. But the Reds couldn’t convert.
It didn’t matter. Michael Lorenzen retired the four batters he faced. Closer Raisel Iglesias arrived in the ninth to face the meat-and-heart of the Atlanta batting order.
Ozzie Albies popped out to short right on a full count. Freddie Freeman struck out on a full count. Josh Donaldson struck out on a 2-and-2 count. And Iglesias had his 21st save in 24 opportunities.
Aristides Aquino made his second straight start in right field and it was not a night to remember. His first three times at bat he made outs and stranded runners each time, four total.
A feature attraction is scheduled for Saturday night when Trevor Bauer makes his Reds debut against Atlanta’s Dallas Keuchel.