ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers could have given a game ball to a plethora of players after Tuesday's 8-0 win over the Rays.
But the player most deserving was C.J. Wilson.
With the Rangers needing a win on Tuesday, Wilson stepped up in a big way, firing his first career shutout to help Texas maintain its slim lead over the second-place Angels in the American League West.
In tossing a five-hit shutout, Wilson improved his record to 15-6 to become the first Rangers pitcher since Aaron Sele in 1999 to compile consecutive 15-win seasons. He also helped the Rangers establish a team-record 18th shutout this season, the most by the organization since 1977, and the most by an American League team since the Athletics notched that many in 2002.
"We work really well together," Wilson said of his rotation mates. "The game plan is really important. Matt [Harrison], Derek [Holland] and I all working together like that, what works for one guy might work for the other guy. The rotation is a team in its own way."
Wilson pitched brilliantly on Tuesday, considering he had to deal with an injured left index finger that he hurt while trying to field a hit in last Thursday's start against the Rays.
The 30-year-old All-Star left-hander wiggled out of the little trouble he ran into, demonstrating why he has solidified his role as ace.
"It's not 100 percent, but that's why I had trouble with control earlier in the game," said Wilson, who had six strikeouts and three walks. "The ball was kind of sailing a little bit on my sinker, but it's getting there so I think it'll be fine."
Wilson said it was a constant battle to maneuver his way through the 117-pitch outing. On Monday, he had joked about being his own "chiropractor" after having been hit "six or seven times." On Tuesday, he combined his "doctorate" degree with his own version of engineering as he designed a way to manage the situation.
"This whole series of mechanical things you do to throw the ball where you want it, go through the kinetic chain to figure out where something is going wrong," Wilson said. "So if finger is making finger throw sideways, I've got to figure out to do something else to get on top of the ball. Get on top of the ball, and focus on throwing the ball low."
The hits he allowed were all singles, and when the Rays reached base, Wilson induced them into hitting four double plays.
"I had the same feeling in Seattle earlier this year where I had enough pitches and enough familiarity with the hitters to keep them off-balance, and that's what worked tonight," Wilson said.
Wilson, who matched his career high for wins, became the first left-hander in Texas history to post 15 or more victories in consecutive seasons while joining Charlie Hough, Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Kevin Brown and Sele as the only Rangers to have accomplished the feat.
"He did a great job, and that's what you want to see in your starting pitcher when he starts," said Josh Hamilton, who had two doubles and was part of an offense that racked up seven extra-base hits. "He went after hitters, kept his composure, got a couple guys on base and went right after the hitters."
With Wilson dealing, the Rangers' offense came alive after being shut down the night before by an equally impressive James Shields.
Every starter except Mitch Moreland notched a hit against Rays starter Jeff Niemann, who has allowed 12 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings over his last two starts, both against the Rangers. David Murphy led the way with a season-high four hits and four RBIs, including a solo homer and two doubles to raise his average to .477 over his last 11 games.
"I've always said how important Murphy is to us," manager Ron Washington said. "He hasn't had the type of year that he's wanted to have from the beginning to now, but he kept working and the opportunity presented itself and we're very fortunate to have a David Murphy to step up and do what he's been doing."
Before most of the 11,611 in attendance at Tropicana Field could find their seats, Ian Kinsler gave Wilson all the runs he would need with a leadoff home run off Niemann, his Major League-leading seventh leadoff blast this year and his 26th home run of the season.
Murphy led off the second inning with his eighth homer, and the Rangers broke the game open in a three-run third that featured Hamilton's RBI double scoring Elvis Andrus and Murphy's two-run double bringing home Michael Young and Adrian Beltre.
The Rangers chased Niemann in the fifth when Hamilton doubled with one out, Young followed with a single and Beltre drove in Hamilton with a sacrifice fly. Murphy greeted Rays reliever Cesar Ramos with a double to right that scored Young.
Beltre extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the third.
"We got shut down by a pretty good pitcher yesterday and pitching will always stop offense," Washington said. "Tonight, we were able to get on Niemann. Kinsler got us on board, then Murphy followed up with one and then from that point on, we just kept getting after him. Hamilton had a good night, Murphy had a good night, you know everybody contributed, [Mike] Napoli and then C.J. did the rest on the mound."
Perhaps the biggest dilemma for Washington was whether to keep Wilson in until the end, considering the pitch count was mounting and the lead was well in hand. But Wilson made the decision easy for him.
"He told us in the fifth inning that he was going to finish it," Washington said.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.