The Chicago Cubs' Travis Wood earned his first trip to the All-Star game last season, but he has had trouble maintaining his consistency so far this year.
The Cubs are hoping their left-hander's can build off his latest start facing a San Diego Padres team coming off its highest-scoring performance of the season on Saturday night.
Wood posted a 2.69 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in his first 18 starts in 2013 but had a 4.91 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP in his first eight games this season. It looked like he might be in for another difficult outing Sunday when he walked three Milwaukee batters in the first inning, but he settled down for a 4-2 victory.
Wood (4-4, 4.61 ERA) retired 19 of the final 21 batters he faced in his seven innings and gave up two hits, including Rickie Weeks' two-run homer. He credited his turnaround to a "minor adjustment."
"It's just trying to get back to throwing strikes and pounding the zone, not trying to be too perfect," Wood said.
San Diego will try to spoil Wood's outing while attempting to duplicate their performance from Friday's 11-1 rout of the Cubs. The Padres had 12 hits while recording their most runs since a 12-2 win over Arizona on Sept. 25, and six players had at least one RBI.
Chase Headley matched a season high by driving in three runs while helping his club end its season high-tying four-game skid.
Even with Friday's performance, San Diego (22-27) still ranks last in the majors with a .224 average and 154 runs. The Padres were batting .207 with 27 runs in their previous nine games.
"We haven't had many of those games," manager Bud Black said. "A couple, but not many. When that happens there is a different feeling in the dugout and a different vibe. Everyone wants to get to the bat rack, to start hacking and wanting to get involved."
Wood has gotten a combined two runs of support while losing each of his last two starts against San Diego. He's given up five runs and nine hits in 13 2-3 innings in those matchups.
Wood allowed three runs, four hits and one walk over 7 2-3 innings in last year's only meeting, a 4-2 loss May 2.
With the Padres shuffling their rotation due to Robbie Erlin's ailing elbow, Billy Buckner is expected to be called up from Triple-A El Paso to make his debut with the team. The right-hander has made 23 starts for three different clubs, including two with the Los Angeles Angels last season.
"He's done this before. His experience, in his career, popping him in there, mentally we won't have any issues," Black told the team's website.
Buckner earned a 12-3 win in his only start against the Cubs on Oct. 2, 2009, while with Arizona.
The only active Chicago hitters to have faced Buckner - Chris Coghlan, Anthony Rizzo and Luis Valbuena - are a combined 0 for 5.
Headley, batting .379 in his last 15 games against the Cubs, is 6 for 15 with two homers in his career against Wood.