MINNEAPOLIS -- The Angels' worst nightmare was unfolding over the course of the first two innings from Target Field on Sunday: C.J. Wilson, their struggling No. 2 starter and a guy they badly need contributions from, had already given up three runs and looked primed for another dud.
The 33-year-old entered with a 4.66 ERA, was coming off allowing five runs in 3 1/3 innings and started the game by giving up three hits and three walks in the first couple of innings, while throwing only 27 of his 51 pitches for strikes. But then, somehow, he got through 6 1/3 innings and didn't allow any more runs in the Angels' 14-4 rout of the Twins.
"It shows that last start was more of a blip, I guess," Wilson said. "The last five or six games have kind of been trending in the right direction."
Indeed, Wilson had a 2.63 ERA in a four-start stretch going into a rough outing against the Astros on Tuesday. But that came on the heels of an 11.03 ERA over a six-start stretch and was part of what has been an overall down season for the veteran left-hander, who still has an ERA of 4.64 and a walk rate of 4.1, his highest since 2010.
Wilson started off behind in the count on six of the first 11 batters he faced and got into six three-ball counts in that span. He got out of a first-and-second, one-out jam in the first on a hard-hit double-play ball, then started the second by walking the bases loaded before giving up a two-run double to Aaron Hicks and a sacrifice fly to Brian Dozier.
But that Dozier at-bat started a streak that saw Wilson -- relying heavily on an effective cutter -- retire 15 of the next 16 batters, including 11 in a row at one point.
"I didn't really make a drastic change or anything like that," Wilson said. "After we scored and got those runs back, I felt like, 'OK, we're scoring runs today. Yeah, I gave up three, but we're going to score.' I had that kind of confidence knowing that I can throw the ball where they couldn't hurt me."
For a first-place team that's without Garrett Richards for the season, and plays bullpen games every five days, and badly needs its playoff-experienced starters to step up, it was an encouraging finish.
"The last 4 1/3 were very encouraging," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "First couple, obviously, you're hoping he can just keep you in the game and find it, and he did. He ended up pitching a strong game for us."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.