Kerry Wood called it "a stinger in my Achilles' tendon. I kind of slipped. It was more aggravating than anything else "
Yet for one moment Sunday, in the seventh inning, the Cubs and their fans feared the worsta serious injury that would sideline their ace, thus evaporating the Cubs' hopes of staying in the pennant race.
Wood gingerly arose. He threw two practice pitches. The scoreboard timed them at 95 and 92 m.p.h.
So Wood kept pitching through the eighth and beat the White Sox for the first time in his career. The 5-2 decision snapped the Cubs' four-game losing streak.
"I'd slipped a few times before," Wood said. "I had it retaped after the seventh. It was a little more stable."
Before Wood made his decision to gut it out, catcher Damian Miller said, "I told him to get out of the game. It was up to him. Only he knew how serious it was, and if something hurts, and you try to favor it, you can hurt something else. It was kind of scary."
Wood escaped a Sox threat in the critical seventh. The Sox, trailing 5-2, loaded the bases with only one out. Wood then struck out pinch-hitter Armando Rios and retired Willie Harris on a popup.
"Damian came out and said, 'Get ahead of Rios with a fastball and then make him chase sliders,'" Wood said.
Wood's first pitch to Rios was a called strike. The scoreboard timed it at 97 m.p.h. Wood got ahead of Harris 0-1 with a pitch timed at an even 100 m.p.h.
"Woody complained that his foot hurt, and he threw 100 m.p.h.," Miller said. "That shows how tenacious he can be at times. He can move up into an extra gear."
Wood flashed his emotions to the crowd of 44,858 fans, joyously slapping his fist into his glove when Harris popped up to second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to end the seventh.
"Sure, it was emotional," Wood said. "We've had trouble beating these guys."
Wood's victory improved his record to 8-5 and his career mark against the Sox to 1-3.
Besides the 97 and 100 m.p.h. first pitches to Rios and Harris in the seventh, the board clocked Wood's sixth-inning third strike to Frank Thomas at 99 m.p.h.
"Those clockings were probably right," said Wood, "but I didn't throw many good fastballs. My slider was my best pitch today. I didn't have my best stuff."
Wood allowed four hits and threw 126 pitches, 78 of them strikes, in his eight innings. His pitch count was only 76 after six innings.
"That's because their batters were aggressive," Wood said. "They swung early in the counts and hit a lot of balls hard but right to our fielders."
Wood's six walks were his highest total of the season. He struck out seven.
"Kerry gave us a gutsy performance," Baker said. "We were afraid we'd have to come and get him after he slipped in the seventh. He threw a lot of pitches, but we needed them from him. That's what an ace does."