NEW YORK -- On a day that he struggled to locate the strike zone, C.J. Wilson at least managed to find his sense of humor for a few seconds.
What frustrated him most about his Game 5 performance?
“How much time you got?” Wilson deadpanned.
There was a lot not to like about Wilson’s worst start of the postseason, which came in a 7-2 loss to the Yankees when the Rangers had a chance to close out the American League Championship Series. The best thing you can say about it is that he grinded out five innings to spare the bullpen of two straight days of extra-heavy-duty workloads.
As far as what went wrong, well, there’s a long list. That tends to be the case when a pitcher allows six runs (five earned) on six hits and four walks in five innings.
Wilson’s problems, as usual when he isn’t sharp, started with his wildness. He didn’t throw enough strikes (48 of 93 pitches). The strikes that he did throw weren’t where he wanted them, as was the case on home runs by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano and doubles by Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez.
“Stuff-wise, I wasn’t really there,” Wilson said. “I’d go for the corner, I’d miss. I’d go for the corner again, throw it down the middle. It was just weird.
“I was losing curveballs. My cutter was too low. My cutter was too far in, didn’t cut enough. Every pitch had three little wrinkles on it. I threw some good curveballs down, I hung some curveballs, threw some curveballs up and away. Each pitch had one or two layers of mistakes.”
Oh, and he didn’t much like the Yankee Stadium mound, which he compared to muddy divot-replacement sand at a golf course. He felt like he was slipping and sliding with dirt caught in his cleats.
“Then just mechanically, I got a little out of whack,” Wilson said.
When that happens, the walks come for Wilson. They are the “poison to the mojo,” as the free-spiritied southpaw says. He led the American League in that category (93) but still went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA.
The fact that he was so successful despite his high walk total is a tribute to Wilson’s stuff. But he was flat Wednesday, and the Yankees made him pay when he gave them a pair of four-pitch free passes in the second. Alex Rodriguez and Lance Berkman scored on RBI singles by Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson.
Then Wilson couldn’t even make an accurate throw from just in front of the Rangers’ dugout to the plate. Posada scored when Wilson, who had to hustle to retrieve the ball after a throwing error by right fielder Jeff Francoeur, threw high over catcher Matt Treanor’s head.
Those were all the runs the Yankees needed on a day that the Rangers’ offense failed repeatedly with runners on base. But Swisher and Cano led off the bottom of the third with back-to-back homers -- matching the highest dinger total for Wilson this season -- to make the outing go from bad to worse.
"It just looked like a feel thing for a minute there,” Treanor said. “He was just searching. He tried other pitches, but it just didn't seem like he was feeling it. He grinded it out as much as he could. It just didn't happen.”