When C.J. Wilson was acquired last December, his arrival was overshadowed by the simultaneous acquisition of Albert Pujols, and rightfully so. Pujols isn’t just a Hall of Fame lock, but arguably the greatest position player of his generation. For his part, Wilson’s only relationship with Cooperstown will be that of a visitor. But he’s nonetheless a good pitcher. Very good, in fact. Which explains why the Angels ponied up a considerable sum for his services. Luring him away from a divisional rival only sweetened the get.
Lately, however, life have been more sour for the lefty.
Wilson hasn’t recorded a win since June 26 and seven of his last eight outings have resulted in a loss. Sometimes, he’s gotten little run support. Other times, he’s been shelled. But as arguably the Angels’ second best starter, it’s impertative Wilson get back on track. Monday against the Indians, he looked to be rounding back into form. Through 6.2 innings, he allowed just two earned runs, struck out five and -- one regrettable long ball served up to Brett Lillibridge aside -- didn’t make too many mistakes on the mound.
A commanding performance? No, but these appeared to be strides in the right direction. Then came his decision to barehand a hot shot from catcher Lou Marson. Not only wasn’t the lefty able to convert the out, but he needed to be removed from the game and taken to the hospital for examination.
Even while experiencing some pleasure, Wilson couldn’t avoid pain along the way.
Still, it was the first positive night Mike Scioscia and his hurler felt could be built upon.
“I thought he threw the ball well,” said Scioscia after the loss. “A couple little bumps in the road. ... Outside of that, I thought he settled and was in the zone early, ahead in counts. Probably the best outing we’ve seen from C.J. in his last six or seven.\
“I think C.J. has a lot to absorb tonight. ... His command was much better and he pitched a strong game.”
Wilson agreed Monday’s start could provide a foundation toward turning around his recent slump, but also cautioned against putting too much pressure on himself to single-handedly snap the Angel’s losing ways.
“It was a lot better than the last two [starts], statistically ... We’re all competitive athletes in this room. You do your best every game and sometimes you try to do too much. A hitter going up there trying to hit a home run. A pitcher trying to strike everybody out. “Tonight, the hits that they got off me were kind of early in the count, where I’m trying to get ahead. Which is fine. As a pitcher, you can accept that. But the last game, I got 0-2 on a few guys and tried to throw the ball too hard and made a mistake and the guy got a hit or whatever. So that’s more frustrating.
“Tonight, I didn’t beat myself too many times.”
Even if he had, Scioscia insisted it will take more than Wilson at the top of his game for the Angels as a team to follow suit.
“I don’t think you can put it on one starter and say, ‘Hey, he needs to pitch the way he can.’ We need C.J. We need Zach [Greinke]. We need Ervin [Santana]. We need Danny [Haren] and [Jered Weaver.] We need those guys every day going out there giving us a chance to win. This month, Weav has pulled his share of the bargain and we’ve been a little hit or miss with some other guys. Our rotation needs to come together.
“I think everyone has a lot of confidence offensively that we’re gonna keep moving forward and support them. But we need to start pitching from pitch one of a ball game and get to a certain point, get the game on our terms. We got close tonight, but we couldn’t get it there.”
At least Wilson brought the Angels -- and himself -- a little closer to that finish line.