ARLINGTON, Texas -- C.J. Wilson pitched seven years for the Texas Rangers. He led the team in wins two seasons and saves in another [or a third, whichever], made an All-Star team, received Cy Young votes, started four World Series games and led the league in obscure cinematic and cultural references. He also helped build the Rangers into such a baseball powerhouse that they now rival spring football for popularity in Texas.
But then he committed an unforgivable sin this past winter. He put on another team's jersey in exchange for $77 million.
Thus, Rangers fans let him have it when he returned for not just one but two starts this weekend. He threw 22 pitches and allowed four runs in one-third of an inning before a two-hour rain delay ended his night Friday in a lopsided 10-3 loss that left fans chanting derisively, "We want C.J.! We want C.J.!" Then he granted them their wishes with a bit of payback, throwing 5 2/3 much more effective innings in a 4-2 victory Saturday afternoon.
"Colorful insights," Wilson said of the crowd. "What are you going to do? There are little kids in the stands and people are ... I'm not going to repeat it, but you guys should stick a microphone out there and listen to it. It would be very interesting. And you should make a transcript of that."
Asked whether the reaction was worse than anything he hears in New York, Wilson replied, "It's just weird. You do everything you can to depersonalize. You're not going to go out there and pitch with headphones on. You hear it, but you tune it out.
"Like last night, it was really funny. After I finished warming up [in the bullpen], there was one dude who stood there the whole time and was like, 'I don't believe these people are saying stuff like that in the stands.' And he was like, 'Dude, way to tune that out. That was impressive.' And he started clapping. And I'm like, all right, one guy. Then some girl cried out, 'I love you!' And I'm like, 'OK, two people.' So there was a really brave dozen people here who are fans and another 47,954 people who are obviously clamoring to see me fail."
The pitcher the Rangers signed to replace Wilson in their rotation, Yu Darvish, stayed in the game after Friday's rain delay despite sitting about two-and-a-half hours between pitches. Wilson, meanwhile, left the game after persuading Angels manager Mike Scioscia to let him start again Saturday. Having thrown so few pitches Friday and having had experience as a reliever, Wilson said he was confident he could do something no one has done in 10 years -- start games on back-to-back days.
Wilson avoided becoming the first pitcher since Jack Sanford in 1965 to lose starts on back-to-back days. (Wilbur Wood lost two starts on the same day in a 1973 doubleheader.) But it didn't look promising when he walked the first two batters Saturday to bring up Josh Hamilton, who had eight home runs in his previous five games this week. Wilson struck him out, then got a double play to end the inning. He struck out Hamilton again in the fourth before giving up a tying two-run homer to him in the sixth.
Wilson was gone two batters later, but the Angels rallied with two runs in the seventh. With the win, they're back to seven games behind Texas.
"This was a good bounce-back win," Wilson said. "Last night could have gone a long way to sliding us backwards, but we came out today and played with a lot of enthusiasm and fire and got some key hits and worked the count. It was a good game for our team."
Although Wilson wasn't credited with the victory, he took away something else that obviously mattered to him: satisfaction.
"I'm going to have to get used to this hostile feeling [here], because for the next five years it's going to be the same thing," he said. "We're going to be in the same division and have the division rivalry. It's good to get two starts out of the way to get a real good feeling of what it's going to be like. Because I'm sure it's not going to change."