Monday, October 24, 2011
Final home game in C.J. Wilson's hands
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Back to you, C.J.
On Sunday night, Derek Holland put together the start of his life, won Game 4 and allowed the Texas Rangers to knot up the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now C.J. Wilson, winless and thoroughly disappointing throughout the postseason, has a chance to move Texas one win away from the franchise's first championship in tonight's Game 5. The series then shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Wednesday and, if necessary, Game 7 on Thursday.
This, C.J., is the biggest start of your life.
"True story," Wilson said.
The left-hander is 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA in the postseason. He has not pitched more than six innings and has made it through six just once. It's hardly the way a staff ace is expected to perform and not the way Wilson drew it up as he prepares for free agency after the season.
He has managed to get progressively better. He seemed to be on his way to his longest start of the postseason in Game 1 in St. Louis, but he got in trouble in the sixth and couldn't make it out, leaving a 2-2 game. The base runner he left for Alexi Ogando scored when pinch-hitter Allen Craig, the Cards' designated hitter on the road, singled.
"I think the other day I got a good chance to see all their hitters in the lineup," Wilson said. "It's a chance for me to set some things straight for us as a team."
Wilson has watched Colby Lewis in Game 2 and Holland in Game 4 pitch gems. If Wilson comes through, the Rangers will have two chances to take one back at Busch Stadium and apply maximum pressure to the Red Birds. Another dud and the Rangers will be staring down consecutive World Series defeats.
Wilson and the Rangers can look at their postseason history in one of two ways. Texas has lost Wilson's last seven postseason starts. Either they're due to turn that around or doomed to head to St. Louis one loss away from World Series elimination for a second consecutive season.
"I'm somewhat of an optimist, but at the same time being a realist, obviously it hasn't gone as well as I would have liked," said Wilson, a 16-game winner during the regular season. "I would have liked to have won every game and thrown a shutout every time because it would have made it easier on everyone else. Obviously, if I threw a shutout the first game we'd be winning right now."