Chicago Cubs: Wood’s competitive nature endeared him to fans
Despite that, he continued to toe the slab, en route to National League Rookie of the Year honors. He made 26 starts that season, striking out a staggering 233 batters in just 166 2/3 innings of work. Wood led all MLB pitchers, allowing just 6.3 H/9 and averaging 12.6 K/9.
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But most people don’t remember how that season ended – with Wood hitting the shelf and eventually missing the entire next season because of surgery. They remember how it started – when in his fifth career big league start, he shut down a prodigious Houston Astros lineup in historic fashion – something that Kurkjian says “only adds” to the impressiveness of Wood’s 20-K performance.
“He didn’t just come out of nowhere to do this,” said Kurkjian. “Sometimes it’s even harder to do this when you have the pressure of being such a high-round draft choice and such a big deal. To be that good, that quickly? Anyone who watched the game – it was ridiculous. That breaking ball? They had no chance against that and his fastball was flying all over the strike zone.”
Wood followed that 20-strikeout masterpiece with a seven-inning, 13-K showing his next time out, setting a new record for most strikeouts in consecutive innings. Kurkjian says his reaction coming off the mound in that game is also telling of why people loved watching him perform.
“He came storming off the mound after the seventh inning. He’s pissed. He’s just set a major league record for more strikeouts in consecutive innings at 33 – but he’s storming off the mound because he gave up a home run to Kelly Stinnett. I think that’s part of it also.”