ARLINGTON -- What figured to be a tough pitching matchup against Justin Verlander instead turned out to be a rugged battle with Mother Nature on Saturday for C.J. Wilson.
But Wilson and the Rangers overcame both the weather and the Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series with a 3-2 victory that got Texas off on the right foot in pursuit of a second straight World Series berth.
Wilson lasted just 4 2/3 innings, with a 41-minute rain delay in the top of the fifth inning getting him out of sync after he'd held the Tigers scoreless for four frames before the skies opened above Rangers Ballpark.
But he turned a 3-2 lead over to a bullpen that slammed the door the rest of the way, and that end result was all that mattered on a long, wet night in Arlington.
"Obviously with the rain delay, it kind of threw everything out the window," Wilson said. "If you're going to see a 3-2 game with [Verlander] and I pitching, you'd think we'd both go out and throw seven or eight innings or something like that.
"I'm sure Justin is as frustrated as I am with the rain. We both had one bad inning and both of those really shortened our outings. But he's probably going to be ready for us in his next start like I'll be ready for them."
Rangers manager Ron Washington said his No. 1 starter was far sharper than in his previous outing against Tampa Bay when he surrendered three home runs in a 9-0 loss in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
"C.J. was much better tonight," Washington said. "I just [wish] Mother Nature wouldn't have stopped him there. I think he was on his way to at least giving us six or seven innings."
When the lefty returned to the mound with a runner on second and no outs after the first of two rain stoppages, he wound up allowing an RBI double by Austin Jackson and then walked two batters before uncorking a wild pitch with the bases loaded to allow Jackson to score from third and cut the lead to 3-2.
Washington then had Wilson intentionally walk Magglio Ordonez to reload the bases with Alex Avila coming to the plate when the rain returned and halted action for another hour and nine minutes and ended his night.
Wilson was close to done at that point anyway, having thrown 96 pitches, but he had only been at 71 pitches and seemed to be getting on a roll when the rain struck the first time.
"You just get stiff and pitching is all about control," he said. "My control was a little off and that made all the difference in the world. If I was able to bury that breaking ball to Austin Jackson, then I get out of the inning with no runs. But I just didn't execute it and that's how that goes."
Wilson dodged other sorts of trouble in the first two innings when he gave up four hits and a walk, but didn't allow a run while stranding four.
He loaded the bases with one out in the first before inducing Ordonez into a double-play grounder, as Adrian Beltre stepped on third base and then easily gunned out Ordonez to end that threat.
"The first inning was a huge key," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We loaded the bases and C.J. made a great pitch on Magglio, cut a fastball in and got him to ground it to third. That was obviously huge. We always talk about the ninth inning, but tonight's game might have been about the first inning."
Wilson, who led the Major Leagues with a Rangers-record 31 ground-ball double plays this season, got another in the third inning on a 5-4-3 to Victor Martinez that erased one of his five walks on the night.
"The reason I get a lot of double plays is I tend to put more guys on base than I'd like and we have an amazing infield defense," Wilson said. "The double play is a huge advantage we have. It just feels like we have Gold Gloves all over the place in the infield."