Sunday, August 15, 2010
Game thoughts: C.J. Wilson beats heat
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Although more and more unlikely, the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox remain a possible postseason matchup, and if that were to happen, Sunday's 7-3 Rangers win to take two of three in the series definitely won't count as a preview.
Both lineups were scattered with backups in an afternoon contest that saw the temperature fluctuate between 99 and 102 degrees.
Still, the slimmed-down lineups and mind-searing heat can only accentuate the gem turned in by Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson, who beat back the heat and Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka with proficient innings that kept his pitch count reasonable and allowed his teammates to quickly return to the relatively cool confines of the air-conditioned dugout.
Wilson didn't face more than four batters in any of his 7 2/3 innings of work. An outfielder didn't have to record an out until Julio Borbon tracked down Bill Hall's blast to deep center and crashed into the wall to record the first out of the eighth inning. Borbon also caught the second out before nine-hole hitter Eric Patterson reached on an infield hit, and that was it for Wilson after tossing his 113th pitch of the game.
Wilson (11-5) was charged with one run after reliever Pedro Stop gave up an RBI double to Marco Scutaro and then a two-run homer to Darnell McDonald before getting out of the eighth with Texas still up 5-3. Wilson surrrendered four hits, walked one and struck out eight.
Matsuzaka mostly matched Wilson's proficiency through six innings, but he allowed a mix-and-match batting order from the five through nine spots to jab him into an early deficit. That fact will go a long way for the Rangers, who were without Ian Kinsler (groin) and Nelson Cruz (hamstring), as well as Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina, both of whom were granted the day off.
In the second inning, five-hole hitter Jorge Cantu led off with a single and Mitch Moreland, playing right field for the first time in place of Cruz, followed by drawing a walk. Taylor Teagarden executed the sacrifice bunt to move the runners up and Andres Blanco flied to deep center, allowing Cantu to tag from third for a 1-0 lead.
Borbon made it 2-0 in the seventh when he dropped a surprise, two-out bunt for a hit that caught second baseman Bill Hall deep in the hole and helpless to make a play as Moreland, who had singled to lead off the inning, scored from third. The top of the order finally added to the linescore as Elvis Andrus followed with a base hit to chase Matsuzaka after he had been in total control, including fanning six of eight batters during a stretch through the fourth and sixth innings.
Michael Young then took Boston reliever Manny Declarmen's first pitch deep for a three-run shot for what turned out at the time to be some needed breathing room. Blanco and Borbon added RBI singles in the eighth to make it 7-3. The latter portion of the lineup set the table for all seven runs and drove in four of them.
*Julio Borbon followed up in the field in the eighth inning with a Josh Hamilton-like grab in deep center, crashing into the wall to rob Bill Hall of a possibly home run.
*Blanco became the 500th strikeout of Boston pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka's career when he swung-and-missed in the bottom of the fifth. The next batter, Borbon, became No. 501. From the fourth to sixth innings, Matsuzaka struck out six of eight batters.
*Hamilton was held without a hit, although it took a stunning fielding play by Matsuzaka and then hitting him twice to keep Hamilton from adding to his major league-leading .362 batting average. In the third inning, Hamilton smashed a grounder up the middle, but Matsuzaka got his glove down, fielded it and started a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning. Hamilton was hit by a pitch in the sixth and eighth innings.
*Teagarden executed two sacrifice bunts, one in the second and one in the seventh. Both led to runs. He added an infield single and scored in the eighth.
*Moreland raised his batting average to .306, going 1-for-3. He led off the seventh with a single and scored. He also walked in the second inning to help the Rangers secure a 1-0 lead.
*In a non-save situation, closer Neftali Feliz retired Adrian Beltre and Mike Lowell before walking Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and then ended the game by getting Bill Hall to fly out to right.
*Paid attendance was 30,252, although it's doubtful that many actually made it to the sun-drenched ballpark.