Angels get by Rangers after C.J.'s gritty start

Angels get by Rangers after C.J.'s gritty start

Angels get by Rangers after C.J.'s gritty start
ARLINGTON -- C.J. Wilson's next start could've come Monday. When rain pelted Rangers Ballpark in the bottom of the first on Friday night, kicking off a near two-hour rain delay, manager Mike Scioscia was thinking about pushing Wilson's start to three days later against the Athletics.

But the Angels' new left-hander -- after facing five batters, getting four earned runs charged to his name and suffering one unfortunate loss in his return to Texas -- wanted another chance against his former team.

"I wanted to stand up to it again," he said, "because obviously, last night didn't shake out and [scheduled Saturday starter Jerome Williams] kind of threw himself on the alter and sacrificed his ERA for the benefit of the bullpen. So I wanted to kind of do the same thing today."

After some quick convincing, Wilson did.

With a sellout crowd booing incessantly throughout Saturday afternoon, he set the tone with a gritty 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball against baseball's most lethal lineup. After he left, the offense broke out against a previously dominant Alexi Ogando in the seventh, and a bullpen that had struggled for most of the season hung on, giving the Angels a much-needed 4-2 win over the Rangers.

The victory evened the series, snapped the Angels' five-game losing streak to Texas (22-12) and put them seven games back of their division rivals in the American League West standings.

The start, Wilson hopes, sent a message to an Angels team (15-19) still desperate for any sort of spark.

"I feel like it's good for our team to see me go out there and challenge the situation," he said. "I just want to set a tone."

Shortly after play resumed on Friday night -- an eventual 10-3 loss by his club -- Wilson was already showered and relaxing in his hotel room. He ate a quick meal, read a book, began texting some teammates -- "Don't worry," he wrote, "we're going to get them tomorrow" -- and stayed away from the TV.

"I didn't watch the game," Wilson said. "I checked the score and was disappointed we didn't come back, but obviously, the game was pretty out of hand by the top of the second."

Initially, Scioscia was hesitant about letting Wilson pitch the following day, and thus being the first starter since the Rangers' Aaron Myette on Sept. 3-4, 2002, to start back-to-back games. But pitching coach Mike Butcher helped him out.

"It's sort of like when mom doesn't want to let you do something and dad does," Wilson said. "[Scioscia] was a little bit undecided, but Butcher helped me out a little bit. He vouched for me."

Wilson heard the boos, felt a bit off early on and was throwing to a catcher -- John Hester -- who had only been with the club for a day. But after walking the first two batters of the game, he struck out Josh Hamilton and got Adrian Beltre to bounce into a double play, beginning a run that saw him retire 12 of 13 batters.

The Rangers scored on a Craig Gentry RBI single in the sixth and, yes, another home run by Hamilton in the seventh -- making him one of two players in baseball history to club 18 through his club's first 34 games -- but that was all Wilson would allow.

"I can't say enough for what C.J. did," Scioscia said. "He pitched his heart out."

Wilson talked all week about "de-personalizing" his return to Texas, but it was hard not to hear the insults being hurled in his direction -- insults that started as soon as he began warming up in the left-center-field bullpen for Friday's original start.

"There's a really brave dozen people here that still are a fan, apparently, and there's 47,954 people that are obviously clamoring to see me fail," Wilson said.

"I'm going to have to get used to this hostile feeling, because for the next five years, it's going to be the same thing. We're going to be in the same division -- division rivalry and all that stuff -- and I guess it's good to get two starts out of the way to get a really good feeling of what it's going to feel like. And I'm probably sure it's never going to change."

The Angels' anemic offense got just six hits, with Mark Trumbo hitting his fifth homer and Albert Pujols -- batting .195 after a 1-for-3 game -- walking for the first time since April 25.

They won by breaking through against a guy right-handed batters were 0-for-28 against this season.

Ogando checked in to relieve lefty starter Matt Harrison with two on and none out in a 2-2 game in the top of the seventh, then gave up a bunt single to Peter Bourjos and RBI sacrifice flies to pinch-hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielder Mike Trout.

Then, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden, Ernesto Frieri and closer Scott Downs -- members of a bullpen that came in with a collective 4.60 ERA -- kept the Rangers scoreless through the last 3 1/3 innings, giving the Angels their ninth win in the last 13 games.

"We need to keep playing good baseball, and on a consistent basis, that's been a challenge this year," Scioscia said. "Sometimes, the wins and losses you can't control, but you certainly can control how you're playing the game, and we need to keep bringing it.

Wilson sure did his best to do that on Saturday.

Did it send a message to his struggling team?

"I don't know," Wilson said. "That's up to them to decide. But I'm going out there giving it everything I can all the time."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.