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Friday, October 8, 2010
C.J. Wilson heard a 'whack' and led big

By Jeff Caplan

ARLINGTON, Texas --When Michael Young stepped to the plate for what would be a controversial at-bat in the fifth inning, pitcher C.J. Wilson was doing his normal between-inning routine.

"I'm not in the dugout during our offensive stuff," Wilson said after Game 2. "I'm kind of in the back just trying to zone in, trying to relax and stuff."

Then he heard the sellout crowd under the Tropicana Field roof go nuts. Boos rained down. Young had started to swing and at the last moment held up on the Chad Qualls pitch. Tampa Bay Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach pointed to first base umpire Jerry Meals to render judgment: Swing or no swing. Replays, depending on the angle, could have gone either way.

Josh Hamilton, standing in the on-deck circle, called it, "Close."

Meals emphatically waved the safe sign, and simultaenously the Rays dugout went berserk and so did the crowd. Had Young gone around in Meals' eyes, he'd be back in the dugout, down on strikes, still searching for his first postseason hit. Instead, the count went full with two men on.

"The next thing I heard was a whack and our dugout went crazy," Wilson said. "I saw it on replay."

He saw Young blast Shields' offering 431 feet to dead center field, just below the point where Nelson Cruz's towering shot landed in Game 1. Suddenly, Wilson was in the dugout, his 2-0 lead having ballooned to 5-0.

"He's our Derek Jeter or our Cal Ripken or whatever. That's our guy," Wilson said. "We rely on him for all sorts of stuff. He's got tremendous work ethic and we knew it was just a matter of time before he came up big on offense because he'd made some really great plays on defense already."