Thursday, September 29, 2011
Rays know they'll get C.J. Wilson's best
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Evan Longoria, the hero of Tampa Bay's miraculous comeback Wednesday to get the Rays back into the postseason, knows one thing when it comes to Texas Rangers Game 1 starter C.J. Wilson.
"I want to figure out a way to not come into the locker room after the game and not talk about how good C.J. was," Longoria said late Thursday afternoon after the Rays arrived at Rangers Ballpark. "He's been a thorn in our side from last year all the way to this year. I don't know, maybe we have to go back and re-look at the film. I've looked at it enough to know what the back of his head looks like with my eyes closed.
"I don't know what it is, but there has to be something there and we have to figure it out sooner rather than later."
Wilson won Game 2 in last season's ALDS to give the Rangers a 2-0 series lead. He pitched a shutout through 6 1/3 innings, allowed two hits, two walks and struck out seven.
In three starts against the Rays this season, Wilson is 2-0, including a complete game, with a 2.08 ERA (five runs in 21 2/3 innings). He's allowed 10 hits and walks and struck out 24.
Wilson said even though it took about as long as it could to find out who he would throw against it won't affect his preparation.
"They are going to have the same lineups pretty much they had in the regular season against me," Wilson said. "So knowing that -- even though we found out at the last minute -- I have all my notes and video and that stuff to go through and I feel prepared."
Rays manager Joe Maddon acknowledged that he could make some adjustments to his lineup to face Wilson, a hard-throwing lefty who can throw varying speeds and to a variety of locations. He said he wasn't prepared to make any pronouncements before talking to his players. Maddon doesn't have much maneuverability in terms of right-handed bats he could throw into the lineup, so perhaps the Rays re-evaluate their approach against Wilson.
One left-handed batter who figures to remain in the lineup no matter what is Johnny Damon, who is just 2-for-11 for his career off Wilson.
"He's definitely matured in front of everybody's eyes. He was a very reliable reliever for years and took on the starting role. He's matured. He can sink the ball well, throws that cutter, has a nice curve ball and just his mound presence is just so much better now. That's that maturing process that pitcher's go through. he's learned how to pitch. He's not just a thrower any more, he's got a plan. And it helps being able to throw as hard as he does, too, from the left side."