ANAHEIM -- The Angels officially clinched the American League West title late Wednesday night, but that became inevitable long ago. The most encouraging part was how they did it -- with C.J. Wilson dominating for the first time in a long time.
"It's what I need to do," Wilson said after twirling seven scoreless innings in an eventual 5-0 win over the Mariners. "If we're going to win, I have to pitch like that. I've been working on it for a while, trying to get my delivery right, and tonight it all paid off."
Wilson entered that start with a 4.61 ERA. He had completed six innings only three times in his previous 13 outings, sported the highest walk rate in the AL and led all qualified starters by averaging 17.9 pitches per inning. Then he retired the first 11 batters in order, didn't give up his first hit until there were two outs in the fifth and breezed through the first six frames with only 66 pitches.
"That's important, to see C.J. pitch that well," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after Wilson walked three, struck out seven and gave up only the one hit. "He was ahead in the count, brought his secondary pitches in -- he was really pitching well."
And it couldn't have come at a better time.
With Garrett Richards (torn left patellar tendon) and Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) out for the season, the Angels were down to four starting pitchers. Then Matt Shoemaker suffered an oblique strain on Monday night, clouding his availability for the AL Division Series and further heightening the importance of Wilson bouncing back.
The Angels need the 33-year-old left-hander to return to the form that made him a solid No. 2 behind Jered Weaver, and they need it to happen now.
That's why Wednesday night was so uplifting.
"Wow," catcher Hank Conger said. "Wow. That was unbelievable. Unbelievable. That's the best I think I've seen him pitch all year. We need that. He's our heart. He's going to help lead us however deep we're going to get. To see the outing he put out tonight was just such a bright light to shine going into the playoffs."
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.