ATLANTA -- Alex Wood has provided indications that he has a bright future at the Major League level. But as the Braves attempt to construct a rotation that will not include Tim Hudson's veteran presence for the remainder of the year, they must determine if Wood is ready to serve as a dependable starter.
Wood didn't quite give the impression he was hoping to make in his second big league start at Citi Field on Thursday afternoon. His fifth-inning exit prompted the entrance of Kameron Loe, who surrendered the three sixth-inning runs that handed the Mets a lead they would not relinquish in a 7-4 win over the Braves.
"I felt like it was just one of those days," Wood said. "I thought a lot of things were just falling for them. I thought I competed well, but my pitch count got a little high, and they took me deep into some counts."
Wood was certainly more impressive than he was when he threw 73 pitches and lasted just three innings against the Mets during his only previous Major League start on June 18. But while surrendering eight hits -- all singles -- and four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, the 22-year-old left-hander showed inconsistent command. From a rookie pitcher who has been primarily used as a reliever since being called up from Double-A Mississippi in late May, that isn't necessarily unexpected.
The Braves sent Wood to Triple-A Gwinnett before the All-Star break to allow him to stretch his arm out. But he made just one start before being summoned back to the big league level to make this latest start in place of the injured Paul Maholm.
When Maholm makes his expected return to the rotation in early August, Wood might be sent back to the bullpen. But Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Wood will make at least one more start on Tuesday against the Rockies.
"He didn't get hit that hard," Gonzalez said. "He gave up a bunch of singles to a bunch of hitters that hit left-handers pretty good. He did OK. It's a little different pitching to Major League hitters than it is Triple-A guys. Remember, this guy was in Double-A just two months ago. I think overall it was a good experience for him. You've got to keep learning from it."
After pitching around consecutive singles to begin the second inning, Wood wasn't as fortunate in the third, when Eric Young Jr. and Daniel Murphy began New York's four-run frame with a pair of singles. Marlon Byrd scored Young with a single to left and John Buck provided the big blow with a two-out, two-run single.
"He made pitches and they just kind of found holes out there," Braves catcher Gerald Laird said. "Those back-to-back innings where he kind of got in a jam, it's tough getting out of it two times in a row. They had big hitters coming up, and they just found some holes."
While Wood will make at least one more start, Gonzalez might be more hesitant to use Loe, who has already been released by the Cubs and Mariners this season. The Braves promoted Loe from Triple-A Gwinnett this past weekend.
Instead of calling upon David Carpenter or Anthony Varvaro to enter with two on and one out in a one-run game in the fifth, Gonzalez rolled the dice with Loe and paid the price.
Loe stranded the two runners he inherited from Wood in the fifth inning. But after Freddie Freeman tied the game at 4 with a homer off Zack Wheeler to begin the sixth, Loe surrendered three consecutive hits to begin the bottom half of the frame.
Andrew Brown produced a leadoff double and scored on Murphy's single. David Wright followed with a controversial triple that bounced off the warning track and hit the black metal railing above the left-center-field wall before coming back into play.
Braves center fielder Reed Johnson immediately put his hands in the air, indicating the ball had left the field of play. As Johnson let the ball rest on the edge of the track, Wright raced toward third and Murphy scored from first base. Gonzalez was ejected after he raced on the field to argue with third-base umpire Chad Fairchild, who did not confer with the other umpires.
"That inning with the ground-rule double just got out of hand a little bit," Gonzalez said. "But you always felt that you were just another hitter away."
Wheeler, who made his big league debut against the Braves on June 18, allowed four runs (three earned) and four hits in six innings. Most of the damage he incurred came courtesy of Dan Uggla's two-run homer in the fourth.
"I thought Wheeler threw well," Uggla said. "He made one mistake to me and one mistake to Freddie. That was really it."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.