Texas Rangers: Cliff Patterson
August, 15, 2010
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's hard to fathom that lefty C.J. Wilson had to lobby the Texas Rangers to take him out of the bullpen and move him into the starting rotation.
Seems almost silly now.
"Excellent. It was excellent. He did what he needed to," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Wilson's performance Sunday that spanned 7 2/3 innings of four-hit baseball in 102-degree heat. "He needed to go out there and load up the strike zone with pitches, and he did."
Wilson's team-leading 11th win of the season paced the Rangers to a 7-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox, allowing Texas to take the series and wrap up the five-game homestand against the New York Yankees and Red Sox with three wins. The Rangers now head to Tampa Bay to face the American League East's second-best team in what could be another playoff preview. Wilson, however, won't pitch again until the team gets to steamy Baltimore for a four-game weekend series against Buck Showalter's Orioles.
Wilson's mastery of the heat and a depleted Red Sox lineup Sunday gave Texas' own makeshift lineup that was without four regulars, including Nelson Cruz (hamstring) and a resting Vladimir Guerrero, time to make a late charge against Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Wilson struck out eight and walked one. He never faced more than four batters in an inning and he was in such command of the location of his pitches that the outfield didn't record an out until the leadoff batter of the eighth inning. Wilson then got the second out, but Eric Patterson hit a shot off Wilson's glove for a base hit. At 113 pitches, Washington decided it was time to go get his starter, who had a 5-0 lead after a Michael Young's three-run homer in the seventh temporarily broke open a 2-0 game.
"The thing I'm going to be really upset about is I didn't make that play on Patterson," Wilson said. "The ball hit my glove. If I make that play, it's eight innings, it's clean and we probably finish with a shutout. So, I was upset with that, personally."
Needing just one out to close out the eighth and with hitless Marco Scutaro up, Wilson lobbied his skipper to keep him in the game.
"I had a lot of really good things to say," Wilson said. "I said, 'I got this guy out a couple times already. I get him out historically. And, I really need to work on my neck tan, so just please leave me in. I was like, 'Can you just leave me in?' He was like, 'No, you did everything you go to do to today.'"
Then came a well-deserved standing ovation from the 30,252 that paid to broil in the sun and watch a terrific pitching battle. Watching it all unfold from the dugout was the Rangers ace and Monday's starter, fellow lefty Cliff Lee, whom Wilson has said he studies closely.
"He's got good stuff, he's a good pitcher," Lee said of Wilson. "When he works ahead in the count, throws strikes and goes right at guys, he's that much better. Today was a perfect example of that. He filled up the strike zone, threw a ton of strikes, and when he does that he's hard to score off of."
It was a bounce-back win for the Rangers, who dropped a tough one Saturday night, plus a bounce-back game for Wilson, who threw 96 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings last Tuesday against the Yankees. Before that, Wilson went a season-worst three innings, giving four earned runs to the Seattle Mariners.
Against a makeshift Red Sox lineup, Wilson walked one batter, catcher and former teammate Jarrod Saltalamacchia. When a batter reached base in four of the first five innings, Wilson responded by getting an out on balls that didn't leave the infield. He retired 10 straight batters before Patterson's ball off his glove ended his day.
Wilson lowered his ERA to 3.19, second among the team's starters to Lee. His 157 innings pitched are also second to Lee and are now more than 80 innings beyond his previous high-water mark (73.2 in 2009) in five prior seasons with the Rangers.
"I'm setting career highs in a lot of categories, including walks. So, I think if you cut my walks in half, then I'm, I don't know, I don't know where that places me around the league compared to anybody else, but I'm doing pretty much what I thought I would do," Wilson said. "I'm pitching like I prepared to pitch. I knew what I was capable of and I knew I could do it.
"You don't run miles and miles and miles and lift weights, train and throw long toss, throw bullpens and study video to like not do it."
It's paying off and making any notion of Wilson as strictly a bullpen guy seem awfully silly.
*Tommy Hunter will start Tuesday's game at Tampa Bay in place of Rich Harden, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. Hunter was roughed up Friday night by the Red Sox, lasting just three innings while battling a stomach ailment, so he should be ready to go on just three days rest. Wednesday's starter has not been named. Derek Holland, on a rehab assignment, is a prime candidate to rejoin the rotation and pitch Wednesday. He last pitched Friday for Triple-A Oklahoma City and would take the mound on his normal days rest.
*Young's seventh-inning, three-run homer was his 19th of the season, moving him one away from his fourth season with at least 20 home runs. It was also his 156th career homer, matching Alex Rodriguez for fifth all-time in club history.
*The Rangers have agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Nick Tepesch, the club's 14th-round draft pick. He will report to the Rangers' complex in Suprise, Ariz. The team has now agreed to terms or signed 35 of 53 selections from the 2010 draft.