Extreme heat: Wilson burns Red Sox
Lefty doesn't let weather spoil his eight-strikeout gem vs. Boston
ARLINGTON -- Dante's Inferno turned out to be C.J. Wilson's heaven.
Rangers third baseman Michael Young said talk about the heat in Texas is the most overblown story he has ever heard, and Wilson proved that against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon.
Pitching in 100-plus degree heat, Wilson didn't let anything bother him, turning in an impressive performance that allowed the Rangers to end their homestand with a 7-3 victory over the Red Sox at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Wilson's effort allowed the Rangers to take two of three from the Red Sox and three of five on this short homestand that began with two games with the Yankees. The Rangers are back to an 8 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the American League West with 46 left to play.
"C.J. was excellent," manager Ron Washington said. "He needed to go out there and load up the strike zone with his pitches, and he did. He pounded the strike zone, kept the ball in play and weathered the heat."
Was it hot? Yes.
"My neck felt like it was on fire the whole game," outfielder David Murphy said.
But Wilson, for all his varied interests and hobbies, remains an athlete dedicated to being in top condition, and he showed on Sunday how a well-conditioned pitcher can use the heat to his advantage. This was a well-pitched game whether it came in heat, rain, snow or gloom of night.
"It's all in the preparation," Wilson said. "The heat is all about getting out there in it, doing you're running. That's what I do. That's just the way it is. What can I say, it felt like 81? It felt like 102. But it's every single day. It's not that bad. It's been that way for six-to-eight weeks. It's not like it was 60 for my last five starts and all of sudden it was hot."
Wilson said he had mediocre stuff but was able to command his pitches all over the strike zone. That allowed him to go 7 2/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits and one walk while striking out eight. He is now 11-5 on the season with a 3.13 ERA, including 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts against the Red Sox.
"He had phenomenal stuff," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Lefties are almost long nonexistent against him. Tremendous."
"Outstanding," catcher Taylor Teagarden said. "From the moment he came into the clubhouse, he was focused and determined. He had a great game plan and executed his pitches. He got ahead of hitters and was always attacking. That allowed us to get an early lead and then later take control of the game."
Wilson was pitching on an afternoon when the Rangers were fielding the kind of lineup they would have sent to Tucson, Ariz., for a Spring Training game. Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina were given the day off, Nelson Cruz is out of the lineup with a tight left hamstring and Ian Kinsler is still stuck on the disabled list.
But the bottom five hitters in the Rangers lineup -- Jorge Cantu, Mitch Moreland, Teagarden, Andres Blanco and Julio Borbon -- were 7-for-15 with two walks, two sacrifice hits, one sacrifice fly, four RBIs and four runs scored.
"That was good to see," said Young, who had a three-run home run in the seventh inning. "We need contributions from everybody, and they had some good at-bats down there. C.J. was the story of the game. That was just an incredible ballgame. They have a veteran lineup, but C.J. threw strikes and executed his pitches."
The Rangers were able to manufacture a run with the lower half of their order in the second inning against Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. Cantu led off with a single to left and went to second on a wild pitch. After Moreland drew a walk, Teagarden bunted the runners over and then Blanco drove home Cantu with a sacrifice fly to center.
That made it 1-0 and it stayed that way until the Rangers broke it open with four runs in the seventh. Again it was the bottom of the order that started everything. Moreland led off with a single, was bunted to second by Teagarden and went to third on Blanco's grounder to the right side.
That brought up Borbon, who pushed a perfect bunt past Matsuzaka and out toward second baseman Bill Hall. Borbon beat it easily, allowing Moreland to score. Then came the top of the order. Elvis Andrus singled and Young hit a three-run home run off reliever Manny Delcarmen to make it 5-0.
Wilson took a three-hit shutout into the eighth and retired the first two hitters he faced. Then Eric Patterson reached on an infield hit and Washington brought in Pedro Strop.
"He got into the eighth with 113 pitches and I felt that was enough," Washington said. "He didn't need to stand out there and throw 120 pitches."
Marco Scutaro doubled home one run and Darnell McDonald hit a two-run home run to make it 5-3. But RBI singles from Blanco and Borbon made it 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth.
"Those two runs in the bottom of the eighth were huge," Young said.
But the starting pitcher stood taller than anybody on a hot Sunday afternoon.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.