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Sunday, May 23, 2010
Game thoughts: Bats can't pick up Wilson

By Jeff Caplan

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's back to the drawing board for C.J. Wilson.

Vaulted to the perch of staff ace after a team-record seven consecutive "quality starts" to open the season, Wilson on Sunday suffered through his second consecutive short outing in a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs. The Rangers ended their seven-game homestand 5-2, but after starting it with five straight wins, they know they let a big opportunity go by with an eight-game road trip starting Tuesday at Kansas City.

C.J. Wilson
C.J. Wilson turned in his second-shortest start of the season against the Cubs on Sunday.
Wilson, tabbed with the loss to fall to 3-2, got into trouble immediately, giving up a leadoff hit to Ryan Theriot, a bunt hit to Starlin Castro and an RBI single to Derrick Lee. After Marlon Byrd got the second run home on a fielder's choice, former Ranger Alfonso Soriano roped Wilson's 0-2 pitch -- he fouled off the first three pitches -- into the left-field bleachers for a 4-0 lead after five batters.

Wilson settled down after Soriano's ninth homer of the season, retiring 14 of the next 17 batters. He got into hot water again when he allowed the first two batters to reach base in the top of the sixth with the Rangers trailing 4-3. He nearly got out of the jam, but with two outs, catcher and nine-hole hitter Koyie Hill sent a liner to right to score the fifth run and that was it for Wilson.

After going 4 1/3 innings in his previous start -- a no-decision in the 8-7 win over the Angels -- Wilson lasted 5 2/3 innings Sunday, giving up five earned runs on seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts. Soriano's homer was the third off Wilson in a span of 2 1/3 innings going back to his last start. He entered that game having not allowed a long ball in 87 2/3 innings.

Wilson, who threw 108 pitches -- 66 for strikes -- has allowed 12 runs on 14 hits in 10 innings spanning his last two starts.

**The Rangers sent the top of the order to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning against Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who entered with a 1.66 ERA. Elvis Andrus and Michael Young both struck out before Ian Kinsler worked a walk to bring up Vladimir Guerrero, who was batting a team-leading .341 when he came to the plate.

Guerrero took ball one, fouled back the next pitch and took a 93 mph strike for a 1-2 count. Kinsler stole second on ball two. Guerrero fouled off the next two pitches to keep the count at 2-2 and then was caught looking at 93 mph pitch that caught the outside corner to end the game.

**The announced crowd for Sunday's game was 37,777, bringing the series total to 122,900, the largest three-game attendance at Rangers Ballpark since the New York Yankees came to town on July 24-26, 2006, and drew 128,910.

**Young is on fire at the plate. With a two-run homer in the third and an RBI double in the seventh, Young accounted for three of the Rangers' four runs. He extended his hitting streak to 10 games and wrapped up the seven-game homestand batting .483 (14-for-29). After a slow start, Young has pushed his season batting average to .317.

**Josh Hamilton's struggles in the daylight continued Sunday with a 1-for-4 outing, including a line-drive out hit right at second baseman Ryan Theriot with the bases loaded and the Rangers down a run in the bottom of the seventh. Hamilton grounded out to second to end the first inning with runners at first and second. He singled to center with out in the sixth and was left stranded.

Hamilton had a good homestand at the plate, going 10-for-24, but he had just two RBIs over the seven games despite four doubles and a home run.

**First baseman Justin Smoak is in a serious funk. He was hitless in four plate appearances Sunday and never really hit the ball hard. He weakly grounded out to first in the fourth inning, popped out to shortstop in the sixth and struck out looking in the eighth with one out and the Rangers down a run.

Before Sunday's game, manager Ron Washington expressed confidence in the youngster playing in his first extended big-league action since the Rangers sent light-hitting Chris Davis to the minors. But Smoak is now batting .165 after a 1-for-21 homestand.

**Guerrero didn't get the chance to tie or give the Rangers a lead when he came to the plate in the seventh inning with runners on second and third and two out. He was intentionally walked to bring up left-handed hitting Hamilton. Cubs manager Lou Piniella countered with southpaw Sean Marshall, who got Hamilton to line out to second.

**The bottom third of the Rangers' batting order went 2-for-11 with a walk. Julio Borbon picked up both hits, including an RBI in the third inning. However, the left-handed hitting Borbon was lifted for lefty pinch-hitter David Murphy in the eighth inning with a runner on first and two outs to go against Marshall. Borbon doesn't hit lefties well, but Murphy struck out swinging.

**Reliever Frank Francisco exntended his scoreless streak to eight innings after striking out the side in the eighth inning. Opponents have gone 4-for-28 against him during the stretch.

** Washington went to closer Neftali Feliz in the top of the ninth even though the Rangers trailed by a run. Feliz last worked on Friday night when he picked up his 12th save of the season. The Rangers have an off-day on Monday, so Washington likely didn't want his young closer, who retired the side in order, to be off the mound for three consecutive days.