Shaky C.J. Wilson managed the big out


ARLINGTON, Texas -- C.J. Wilson believes a 41-minute rain delay in the fifth inning did more to short-circuit his night than the Detroit Tigers.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Wilson, the Texas Rangers' ace and Saturday night's ALCS Game 1 starter, lasted just 4 2/3 innings. He was fortunate to give up just two runs while allowing six hits, an alarming five walks -- one intentional to the last batter he would face in the twice rain-delayed fifth inning -- and he struck out six.

After his disappointing, five-inning stint in Game 1 of the ALDS, Wilson threw 96 pitches in his rain-shortened stint, and just 54, or 56.3 percent, went for strikes. He was bailed out by two double plays -- a credit to the pitches he made in those situations -- but can the Rangers survive the series and beyond if their No. 1 pitcher continues to force a heavy workload on a bullpen that on this night was sensational behind him?

"The only thing that matters right now is that we won the game tonight," Wilson said. "The playoff rosters are 25 people. It’s not one person. It’s going to take a contribution from everybody that’s on the team to win the series and move on. Today, obviously our bullpen was huge. In the playoffs that's what you have to do."

Wilson was shaky in the first and second innings. He escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first when he got Magglio Ordonez to send a hopper to third baseman Adrian Beltre for a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play. He surrendered four hits and a walk in the first two frames, but all the hits were singles and it helped Wilson's cause that Detroit baserunners were unable to go first-to-third on a base hit in either inning.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who did not get the best from his ace Justin Verlander, applauded the fastball Wilson threw Ordonez to induce the double play, keep Detroit off the board and possibly from a big opening inning.

A second double-play quickly ended the third inning after three batters and Wilson plowed through the fourth by striking out the side. By the time the fifth inning rolled around, the bottom of the Rangers batting order had staked Wilson to a 3-0 lead. And then a rarity for North Texas in recent months occurred, the skies opened up with a vengeance.

"C.J. was much better tonight," Rangers manager Ron Washington said, comparing him to his Game 1 start against Tampa. "I just hoped Mother Nature wouldn't have stopped him there. I think he was on this way to at least giving us six or seven [innings]. He was throwing the ball extremely well."

But, before the rain started to fall, Wilson opened the fifth with a mistake. Ramon Santiago tagged Wilson's third consecutive slider into left for a lead-off double. Then sporadic drizzle turned into a sudden downpour and players scurried to their respective dugouts and play was stopped. A delay of 41 minutes ensued.

With the delay nearing a point of ending Wilson's night, the 16-game winner said he was told he'd go back out and he agreed -- however, the delay, plus Detroit's extended at-bat, would spell the end of Verlander's night after 82 pitches. When play resumed, Wilson retired Brandon Inge, but Austin Jackson smoked a curve ball for a double for Detroit's first run. Wilson then walked Ryan Raburn and Miguel Cabrera, a sequence that included a wild pitch that scored Jackson from third to trim the lead to 3-2.

Wilson got Victor Martinez for the second out, then intentionally walked Ordonez to load the bases and set up a lefty-lefty matchup against catcher Alex Avila.

But, Wilson would never see Avila. Rain pounded down again and immediately halted the game. This time a 69-minute delay shut him down one out shy of becoming eligible for the victory, something Wilson has yet to record this postseason.

"That’s something you can’t control, there’s really nothing you can do. You just try to adjust," Wilson said of the unwanted delay. "Obviously, I didn’t have my best stuff when I went back out there, but I tried to battle through it. I made one bad pitch to Austin Jackson and it was like the wheels fell off."

It certainly appeared at that point that three runs would not be enough to win. But, 4 1/3 innings of shut-down work from five relievers allowed the Rangers and Wilson, scheduled to go again in Game 5, if necessary, to seize the early edge.