Blister, bullpen ruin C.J. Wilson's night
October, 29, 2010
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- C.J. Wilson deserved better. On a night when the lefty came to deal on the heels of Cliff Lee's surprising Game 1 tumble, a ruptured blister on his middle finger, an impotent offense and an imploding Texas Rangers bullpen turned a Game 2 pitchers’ duel into a 9-0 San Francisco romp.
Wilson pitched superbly, matching the Giants’ stellar starter, Matt Cain, for all but one pitch. San Francisco shortstop Edgar Renteria launched a fifth-inning Wilson fastball high into the left-field bleachers for a 1-0 lead. In the top half of the fifth, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler missed giving Texas the lead first with a blast that smacked off the top of the center-field wall, just inches from going over, and somehow stayed in play.
Kinsler settled for a leadoff double, but another round of failed hitting with runners in scoring position left him standing on second.
The rapidly moving game remained 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh when the blister on Wilson’s left middle finger ruptured during a 10-pitch at-bat to Cody Ross, resulting in a walk, and the beginning of the end. The bloody blister left Wilson incapable of gripping the seams of the baseball, and he removed himself from a game that would put the Rangers in a 2-0 hole as the World Series shifts to Texas.
AP Photo/David J. PhillipRangers starter C.J. Wilson went toe-to-toe with the Giants' Matt Cain, but his solid outing was ruined by a blister and his bullpen.
“Cain and I had a good pitching battle all the way through,” said Wilson, who allowed three hits. “I made that one mistake to Renteria and other than that I was in complete control the whole way. ... You never want to come out of the game, but I did what I thought was right for the team at that point. It didn’t work out as well as anybody drew it up.”
Spinning out of control is the Rangers’ bullpen. Darren Oliver couldn’t finish off the Giants in the seventh, allowing one run. But, it was a mind-numbing eighth that ended any hope of a comeback. After Darren O’Day struck out the first two batters, Buster Posey singled.
Rangers manager Ron Washington pulled the righty O’Day in favor of young lefty Derek Holland, a success story against the Yankees in the ALCS, to pitch to the left-hand-hitting Nate Schierholtz.
O’Day, a spot pitcher whom Washington tends to pull rather than face a left-handed hitter, was upset he couldn’t punch out Posey to end the inning.
“Obviously, yeah, it’s tough to watch for sure. You want your teammates to succeed. You want your team to succeed. We just didn’t get the job done, including myself. Schierholtz was coming up. Derek Holland was warming up and if you look at what he did last series against the Yankees, he’s obviously a pretty damned good pitcher.”
Unfortunately for Holland, he’ll need a short memory to soon forget what happened next.
“I was in the bullpen hitting my spots,” Holland said. “And then I come out of the bullpen and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
Holland threw 13 pitches to three batters; one for a strike. Schierholtz walked on four pitches. Then Ross watched four go by to load the bases. Aubrey Huff ran the count to 3-0 before Holland finally landed one in the strike zone. The fifth pitch, a fifth consecutive fastball, missed and a run came home.
As the balls kept coming, Rangers manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux never got the bullpen warming. Washington said he thought Holland would correct his fastball, but he never could.
“Very frustrating. I’m happy with what he did,” Holland said of Washington sticking with him. “He had confidence in me. It’s my fault. I let him down. I let the team down in that situation. This is a very serious time.”
Finally, Mark Lowe got up. He came in and promptly walked a fourth consecutive batter, Juan Uribe, on five pitches. Suddenly, Wilson’s hard-fought battle against the near-perfect Cain was a 4-0 deficit. The Giants would make it 9-0 by the end of the inning.
Wilson helplessly watched his work unravel.
“No, I’m not surprised at all,” said Wilson, who got a no-decision in Game 1 against the Yankees after a strong start followed by an epic bullpen failure. “When you walk a metric-ton of people, they’re going to score.”
The Rangers obviously miss the services of injured eighth-inning set-up man Frankie Francisco, who remains with the club. He was almost teary-eyed when asked how badly it hurts to be out of commission and watch the bullpen spiral.
Francisco had been a valuable bridge to get to rookie closer Neftali Feliz, who has still not pitched in a save situation. Feliz hasn’t pitched since the ALCS clincher last Friday night and could have been an option to stop the bleeding in the eighth, but Washington said he never considered going to his 22-year-old fireballer.
“No, I didn’t,” Washington said. “I didn’t at all.”
Now the Rangers head home for a possible three games and needing to win four of the final five to capture the franchise’s first World Series. Nothing is predictable, as the first two games at AT&T Park have shown. Lee proved mortal and when Wilson gave everything he had, a tiny, but debilitating injury, a dead-bat offense and a bungling bullpen did him in.
“Trust me,” Holland said sternly. “The bullpen is going to be fine come Friday [for Game 3]. It’s a new day. We’re not going to sit and dwell on it. This game’s over and we’re going to come back and help this team win.”