Wilson's gem overshadowed by rally
Despite Francisco's blown save, Rangers move forward
ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter C.J. Wilson was terrific for seven innings and Neftali Feliz, protecting a 1-0 lead, was positively lights out in the eighth.But Frank Francisco, the latest pitcher to run into Vernon Wells, couldn't close it out in the ninth. Instead the Blue Jays hit for the cycle off him with a three-run rally and pulled away to a 3-1 victory on Thursday afternoon at the Ballpark in Arlington. "It's definitely disappointing," outfielder Nelson Cruz said. "We had a chance to win and the right guy on the mound." The loss was the Rangers' second in three games to the Blue Jays and they have now lost their season-opening series in 10 of the last 11 years. The only exception to that was a three-game sweep of the Indians to start last season. "I don't think it's that big of a deal," third baseman Michael Young said. "You want to win every game but it's just three games. We have all the faith in the world in our closer. We'll make adjustments and move on." The Rangers felt they had the right guy on the mound, but the Blue Jays definitely had the right guy at the plate. Wells led off the ninth inning and crushed a 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats to tie the game. Wells left Arlington with four home runs in three games. "Every mistake we've made, he hasn't missed," manager Ron Washington said. Lyle Overbay then followed with a long slicing fly ball off the left-field wall. Josh Hamilton, a late-inning substitute, tried to make a leaping catch and missed, allowing the ball to carom far enough away for Overbay to reach third with a triple. He scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead. Alex Gonzalez then doubled into the left-field corner and eventually scored on a two-out single by Mike McCoy to make it 3-1. Francisco, who was the winning pitcher on Opening Day, did not finish the inning in his first save situation this year. "He just didn't get it done," Washington said. "I'd like to be in that situation every game all year. I'll give the ball to him every time and most of the time he's going to bring it home." This blown save kept Wilson from getting his first victory as a starter. Wilson, making his first Major League start since Aug. 18, 2005, threw seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out nine before departing with a 1-0 lead. He did so by pitching his way out of two tight jams in the fifth and sixth. "Outstanding," Washington said. "You can't say enough about what C.J. did. He moved his fastball around, had his changeup and slider, he had everything working. When he needed to, he was able to bear down and get the job done." Wilson, who found himself in a taut pitching duel with Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero, started the fifth by giving up singles to Edwin Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez but struck out the next two hitters and retired McCoy on a ground-out to end the inning. In the sixth, Jose Bautista led off with a double and went to third on a single by Adam Lind. This time Wilson struck out Wells and Overbay before Encarnacion flied harmlessly to right to end that threat. Both were the kind of jams Wilson often found himself in as a starter. "I'm sort of used to pitching in pressure situations with guys on base but that was confidence inspiring," Wilson said. "That's something to build on and draw from in future starts." The Rangers finally got Wilson a run in the seventh when David Murphy doubled with one out, went to third on a grounder and scored on a wild pitch by Romero. But that was the best they could do against the Blue Jays starter. "It was a dogfight from the get-go," Romero said. "You've got to tip your hat off to C.J. He threw a great game today. It was a good game. Vernon came through right there at the end -- he's been doing it all series." Feliz took over and, facing the top of the Blue Jays order, struck out the side in the eighth before turning it over to Francisco for the ninth. "If I have a start like that all the time and hand the ball over to those two guys, we're going to win 90 percent of the time," Wilson said. "I believe in Frankie 100 percent." Feliz struggled on Opening Day, giving up the go-ahead run in the eighth inning before being pulled. Washington said after that game he would stick with Feliz as his eighth-inning go-to guy and he proved true to his word on Thursday. Washington expressed the same sentiments about Francisco in the ninth after Thursday's game. "If we're in the same situation tomorrow, we're going to put it in Frankie's hands," Washington said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.