Wilson plans to reverse October trend
Entering World Series, Rangers ace remains confident
ST. LOUIS -- C.J. Wilson practices cryotherapy, the process of exposing himself to extremely low temperatures, to hasten his physical recovery between starts. In his most recent visit to the freezing chamber, a couple of days ago, Wilson said he endured temperatures that reached minus-295 degrees.What the left-hander really needs is a thaw in his postseason performance, which remains frozen on a subpar level. For Wilson, who will start Game 1 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. CT, autumn has more closely resembled a barren winter, or the harsh chill of that cryogenic tube. He's 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three starts this postseason and 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA in seven career postseason outings. Wilson's efforts in the American League Division Series against Tampa Bay and the AL Championship Series against Detroit contrasted sharply with his regular-season exploits. The lefty made the AL All-Star team while finishing 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA and reaching career bests with 223 1/3 innings, 206 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP. Wilson's 1.97 ERA in August and September indicated that he would surge rather than stagger toward the World Series. He spoke in general terms on Tuesday when asked how he might regain his wayward effectiveness. "I would say that there's no particular thing," Wilson said. "I mean, if you throw the ball where you want it, that's going to be your best result. It's not like you're going to throw harder [or] slower."
- 2011 Regular Season
- Overall: 34 GS, 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 74 BB, 206 K
- Overall: 34 GS, 11-9, 3.45 ERA, 55 BB, 191 K
- Key stat: Career-best 206 K's were sixth-most in AL
- Key stat: Four CGs in regular season (4th in NL); one CG in NLDS
- At BUSCH STADIUM
- 2011: N/A Career: N/A
- 2011: 18 GS, 5-3, 3.14 ERA Career: 67 GS, 33-14, 2.61 ERA
- Against this opponent
- 2011: N/A Career: N/A
- 2011: N/A Career: 11 GS, 2-6, 7.26 ERA
- Loves to face.: Lance Berkman, 3-for-
Hates to face: N/A
- Loves to face: Yorvit Torrealba, 1-for-8
Hates to face: Mike Napoli, 3-for-3
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Hasn't lost consecutive starts all season (3-0 with a 3.20 ERA following losses)
- Why he'll win: 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA in last nine starts, incl. three playoff outings
- Pitcher beware: 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three 2011 postseason starts
- Pitcher beware: Has won three straight starts just once in last two seasons
- Bottom line: Return to form
- Bottom line: Just keep rolling
Wilson expressed calm on the eve of his second World Series start.
"I don't feel any particular increase in nerves," said the 30-year-old, who absorbed the loss in Texas' 9-0 World Series Game 2 defeat at San Francisco last Oct. 28. That night, Wilson allowed just two runs on three hits before a blister on his left middle finger forced his exit one batter into the seventh inning.Yet Wilson also suggested that he feels a sense of urgency. For one thing, he's opposing St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter. "He's a phenomenal pitcher, and he has been for a long time," Wilson said. Moreover, Wilson must confront a Cardinals lineup that has proven capable of instant offense. St. Louis has scored in the first inning in seven of its 11 postseason games. On four of those occasions, the Cardinals tallied two runs or more.
"I can't really afford to, like, work my way into the game," Wilson said. "I've got to be on, right from the first pitch."Accomplishing that requires nothing more from Wilson than basic pitching, in Texas manager Ron Washington's view. "Just keep the ball down in the zone," said Washington, who has entrusted the Game 1 start to Wilson in each of the Rangers' postseason series this year. Thus far, Washington added, "He just elevated the ball too much. He knows what he has to do, and I expect him to do it." Catcher Yorvit Torrealba echoed Washington.
"Hopefully, he'll be able to adjust and keep the ball down," Torrealba said. "His last two outings, he wasn't really the C.J. Wilson that we saw all year long. Could be because he was tired -- who knows? This is a guy who was huge for us all year long."We know that he has good stuff. This is a guy we don't worry about if he gets behind in the count because he has good stuff. He can throw any pitch on any count. We just need to make sure he executes down." Lance Berkman, the only Cardinals batter to have accumulated more than 10 plate appearances against Wilson, maintained a healthy respect for his adversary.
"He's really an intelligent guy," said Berkman, who has hit .214 (3-for-14) off Wilson. "I think he has a good repertoire of pitches that he commands, and he mixes it up. I think the thing about C.J. is, he's really unpredictable. He has a good feel for pitching. He can speed you up or slow you down, and when he's on, he's awfully tough."In fairness to Wilson, circumstances beyond his control marred his pair of ALCS starts. Two rain delays in the fifth inning of Game 1 prompted his departure before he could complete that inning, and Miguel Cabrera's fluky double on a ground ball that struck the third-base bag spurred Detroit's four-run uprising in the sixth inning of Game 5. Wilson also realizes that the slightest lapse could spell his removal, particularly since Washington can summon the Rangers' deep and formidable bullpen to provide reinforcement.
"There's not much margin for error because the pressure is on the manager to keep the score down," Wilson said. "They're going to have a quick trigger."Wilson hasn't been the Rangers' lone disappointment. Their starters own a 5.62 ERA in 10 postseason games this year. In the ALCS, Texas became only the second team in postseason history to win a best-of-seven series without having a starter record a winning decision. Logic dictates that the Rangers must improve in this area to subdue the Cardinals, who are hitting a robust .288 and averaging 5.6 runs in the postseason. "Our starting pitcher will certainly have to be on top of things to get through this lineup," Washington said. Wilson sounded aware of this. After all, he faces a familiar challenge. Referring to the Cardinals' cadre of dangerous middle-of-the-order hitters such as Berkman, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and David Freese, Wilson said, "It's an American League lineup, just like ours is. It's the same way I have to navigate a Yankees game or a Red Sox game or anything like that."