Of course it happened like that. On Tuesday, the team without one of its two elite everyday players (Albert Pujols) won big. On Wednesday, the team without two of its three elite everyday players (Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton) won handily. You play the games.
And you can make a solid case that Pujols actually hurt Los Angeles more on Wednesday night, when he arguably ended up costing his team two runs (one on the bases and one on defense), than on Tuesday, when he was back home in Kansas City.
Oakland lost (again), Baltimore won (again), and with Texas taking care of business in Anaheim, that baseball day couldn’t have gone much better for the Rangers, at least on the field, or much worse for the Angels.
Ron Washington: “We know C.J. knows that we are a very aggressive bunch of guys. Tonight, we went there and made him throw the ball in the strike zone, and it worked for us.”
C.J. Wilson: “At times, I’m my own worst enemy. At least, I have been the last couple months.”
And a third, tweeted by Bill Plunkett (Orange County Register), in response to Wilson’s comment: “Hits the mark far better than a lot of his pitches with that one.”
The subtext to both Washington’s and Wilson’s postgame remarks was that Jeff Nelson worked the plate on Wednesday, and as Eric Nadel prepared us to understand going into the game, Nelson calls one of the tightest zones in the game.
The Rangers took advantage of that with their game plan and their execution on offense. And Derek Holland handled Nelson’s stingy zone far better than the lefthander he’d learned so much from over the years.
Holland, as he did in 2011, is surging late in the season, while Wilson hasn’t erased questions about what happens to him when the glare gets the glariest.
Over the last two months, with the Angels fighting to salvage their season, Wilson has taxed his bullpen. The last two times he lasted seven innings were on July 6 and July 13 (both losses). In seven starts since August 18, he’s averaged 5.1 innings.
Last night, with his club fighting the centripetal forces of the toilet flush, Wilson couldn’t get out of the third inning (his shortest start this year next to the one-out, four-run, rain-shortened effort in Texas on May 11), prompting a smattering of boos from the smattering of actual people in the Anaheim crowd and this tweet from Mike DiGiovanna (Los Angeles Times), after Jerome Williams’s exceptional effort in long relief: “If Angels still in playoff race next time C.J. Wilson’s rotation spot comes up, I would start Williams.”
I’m not trashing Wilson. He was a big reason that Texas won the last two American League pennants. He worked his tail off after minor league Tommy John surgery here to become a big league middle reliever and then a big league closer and then a workhorse starter. He earned an All-Star selection as a Ranger and starts on Opening Day and Game One of the ALDS and Game One of the ALCS and Game One of the World Series.
But his track record exposes a handful of flaws, two of which – command issues and his tendency to struggle in the bigger games – came to bear last night, against a team that understood a way to exploit them.
It wasn’t Wilson’s fault that the Angels spit the first month of the season up. On April 30, he pitched into the eighth against the Twins and earned a 4-3 win, improving his record through five quality starts to 3-2, 2.70.
It improved Los Angeles’s record to 8-15. On that date, Texas was 17-6.
Since then, the Angels have been 1.5 games better than the Rangers. And Oakland is a game up on Los Angeles in that time, 2.5 up on Texas.
Toss April out, and the Angels and Rangers would be the two Wild Card teams at this point, with the Orioles a half-game behind Texas for that final Game 162 spot.
Some suggested scoreboard watching in April was gauche.
Nope. April defined the 2012 race.
Not that it’s over. I’ve refrained all summer from engaging in Magic Number talk, preferring instead to focus on winning the dang series and moving on to the next one. But it’s been pointed out that the Rangers’ Magic Number in the division now sits at 11, and that’s pretty cool.
But I’m still in today mode, instead zeroed in on a different number 11, the one who starts tonight against Zack Greinke with another series on the line.
Like Wilson, Yu Darvish may not be a number one starter – yet – but he’s risen to the occasion in a big way lately, something that can’t be taken for granted.
We’ve learned the last couple nights that very good players aren’t always very good, teams can win baseball games without their best players, and if results were all formulaic and not dependent on game plans and the execution of them, the games wouldn’t be as intensely awesome to watch as they are in late September for a team lining things up for October.