Wilson embraces new role as Tigers' closer

Southpaw earns first save in front of about 40 family members

Wilson embraces new role as Tigers' closer

ANAHEIM -- Justin Wilson has never been a closer at any level. But he looked right at home in the role Saturday night as he struck out the side against the Angels in the ninth inning to earn his first save since taking over as Detroit's closer this week.

Maybe that's because he was, sort of, at home. Wilson was born in Anaheim, and while he spent most of his childhood much farther north in the state, most of his cousins live near Angel Stadium. With each of his parents having three siblings, that meant there were approximately 40 family members in the stands to witness Wilson sew up the Tigers' 4-3 victory.

"It was a pretty cool moment," Wilson said. "I've never had this role before. … I'm excited for the opportunity, glad it went well last night. I just want to keep pitching well."

Wilson, in his sixth season, has gotten off to a blistering start to earn the first crack at replacing former closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was removed from the role following consecutive blown saves against Oakland last weekend.

The southpaw has a 1.15 ERA and has allowed just eight baserunners in 15 2/3 innings with 26 strikeouts. Opposing batters have hit just .077 against the 29-year-old, who's averaging 96.3 miles per hour on his fastball this year, per Statcast™.

Wilson didn't have much of an opportunity to celebrate the milestone due to Sunday's early start at 12:37 p.m. local time, but appreciated the novelty of breaking in his new role where it all started.

And don't plan on Wilson incorporating any new habits or celebrations into his routine -- not yet, anyway.

"I've basically just been treating [the ninth inning] like the eighth, seventh or wherever I've been pitching," Wilson said. "I just want to go out and be aggressive and stick with the stuff I have. I've been pitching well and just want to keep that rolling."

Will Laws is a contributor to MLB.com based in Los Angeles. He covered the Tigers on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.