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Thursday, October 13, 2011
C.J. Wilson looks for rhythm in a clinch

By Jeff Caplan

DETROIT -- Texas Rangers No. 1 starter C.J. Wilson got more questions about his impending free agency on Wednesday, but right now the eclectic left-hander has bigger fish to fry.

Wilson, who inherited the No. 1 mantle when Cliff Lee left town, has a chance in today's Game 5 to send the Rangers back to the World Series. He'll have to earn it against Detroit Tigers ace, 24-game winner Justin Verlander.

"Where else would I rather be right now?" Wilson said when queried about his upcoming free-agent status. "This is the ultimate spot to be."

Wilson will be one of the premiere pitchers on the market this winter, but so far this postseason he has yet to produce like an ace. He got shelled in Game 1 of the ALDS and he was shaky to start Game 1 of the ALCS before a rain delay got the better of him and forced his exit two outs into the fifth inning.

A strong push late in the season lowered his ERA under 3.00 for the first time (2.94, third-best among AL starters) all season, so to see his postseason ERA bloated at 7.45 comes as a bit of a shock. So does the four home runs he's allowed -- three to Tampa Bay in the ALDS.

Game 1 of the ALCS was a quirky game because of the rain that also flushed out Verlander after four innings. Still, Wilson had to fight his way out of early jams against the Tigers.

Perhaps it comes down to a rhythm thing. He had the scheduled short start in the final regular-season series at Anaheim, then a longer-than-usual layoff before his uncharacteristically poor stint against the Rays, followed by the rain delay last Saturday night. His Game 5 start today comes with a normal four days of rest.

Wilson said the short start in Anaheim "kind of put me in a little bit of a funk, I think, mentally."

Will he finally be able find that elusive postseason rhythm?

"Hopefully," Wilson said.