Not superstition, but routine for Wood
Closer keeping mum on streak's source as Cubs look for 10
SAN DIEGO -- In 2001, when the Cubs won 12 straight games, Kerry Wood and Jon Lieber both had different roles. They were both in Chicago's rotation.
Wood picked up three wins in that streak -- which began May 19, 2001, and ended a dozen games later on June 2 -- including a one-hitter against Milwaukee when he struck out 14. Lieber, now in the Cubs' bullpen, won two games, and Kevin Tapani three.
During this season's nine-game win streak, which began May 26, Wood had pitched in seven games, and notched six saves. This streak is the team's longest since its 12 in 2001. Wood's other appearance was a non-save situation. He's put to rest any doubts about his durability as a closer.
"He's perfect," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of the right-hander, who was to get a day off on Wednesday in the series finale against the San Diego Padres. "He's ready to go. You don't see the effect of this [work] until the hot weather months of July and August, so you have to be very careful."
Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry were Piniella's closer options on Wednesday.
Just don't ask Wood about the team's current streak.
"Maybe what we should all do is stop talking about it," he said.
Well, our job is to ask, so here goes: Do you have any superstitions that you did in 2001 or are doing now during this streak?
"No," Wood said.
What about Lieber?
"No," Lieber said.
You don't eat the same thing for breakfast or lunch when the team is on a roll?
"Well, I can't say that -- I just had a meatball sub for the third straight day," Wood said. "But no one's talking about it."
OK, we won't mention it. Wood doesn't like the notion of superstitions.
"My routine has changed since going to the bullpen," he said.
"That's the thing," said reliever Michael Wuertz, who overheard the conversation. "You wouldn't call it a superstition. It's a routine."
"It's a routine," Wood said, nodding.
OK, we can't reveal the Cubs relievers' "routine," but whatever it is, it's working. In his last 12 appearances, Wood has nine saves and a 0.73 ERA, giving up one earned run in 12 1/3 innings. He's struck out 36 in 32 1/3 innings. He has 17 hitless outings this year, and hitters are batting .180 off him. The 16 saves so far are tied for the National League lead, and he has converted 12 of his last 13.
"So far, so good -- I feel good," Wood said. "I've got a good routine that fits me and helps me get ready. Everybody's got a routine they like that's working for them."
Wood and the other Cubs relievers have worked overtime in the last nine games, making 33 appearances, and giving up 10 earned runs over 31 innings for a 2.90 ERA. They've added two fresh arms during the 10 days, replacing Jose Ascanio with Neal Cotts, and then calling up Kevin Hart on Tuesday to create a 13-man pitching staff.
The last move was necessary because Chicago's starters haven't gone very deep, posting quality starts -- at least six innings, no more than three earned runs -- in just three of the last nine games. In those nine, the Cubs' starters have a 3.71 ERA (21 earned runs over 51 innings).
Seven different pitchers have won games, including Wuertz, with Ryan Dempster and rookie Sean Gallagher each winning two.
And those meatball subs?
"They are really good," Wuertz said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.