ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- C.J. Wilson walked 93 batters in his first full season as a starter. No one issued more free passes in the American League and only San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez (96) walked more in all of baseball.
Against the Tampa Bay Rays, the major-league leaders in walks and stolen bases, that could be a recipe for disaster. Wilson's task as he takes the mound today seeking to give the Rangers a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALDS will be to limit walks and to take the upperhand in the cat-and-mouse game with aggressive baserunners. The Rays have vowed to play their game and look to steal whenever possible.
"It’s always tough against lefties, but when it’s the playoffs and everything’s on the line, I’m pretty sure we’re going to find a way to run," Rays steals leader Carl Crawford said. "That’s just the way we play."
Of course, baseball doesn't always follow form. In his only start of the season against Tampa, a June 4 game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Wilson got the win in a 9-6 victory in which he lasted five innings, walked four, allowed five runs, three of which were earned, on six hits. Despite all those baserunners, the Rays did not steal a base.
Still, Wilson said he's quite aware of the potential danger. He will work closely with Game 2 catcher Matt Treanor to keep runners honest.
"I guess being left-handed you have somewhat of an advantage because you can kind of see what's going on," Wilson said. "But, at the same time, they are going to try to use some hocus-pocus to get me out of my rhythm as well. I mean, that's part of the game of a fast team is they use their speed to disrupt the rhythm of the pitcher.
"They're going to try to get on base and advance over so that it only takes one hit or maybe a sac fly or something. So you just want to prevent them from scoring. You feel like if you can isolate that guy and strand him at first base, then you're probably not going to give up any runs that inning."
The Rays managed one late, inconsequential stolen base off Cliff Lee in Game 1. They know it won't be easy against Wilson, a 15-game winner who throws multiple pitches.
"He’s a tough guy," Crawford said. "He thows the ball hard. He’s a lefty and he’s been pitching well. Everybody talks about Cliff Lee, but he’s a guy you definitely have to pay close attention to."