Scioscia calls Wilson's season debut a 'masterpiece'
SEATTLE -- C.J. Wilson isn't the emotional type, which is why he didn't seem too dejected when he faced only six batters in last year's American League Division Series, and why he didn't appear very excited when he threw eight shutout innings Tuesday night in this season's second game.
For Wilson, there's always a tangible explanation; a palpable solution for the events that unfold. So Wilson's reaction to 2014, easily his worst season as a Major League starting pitcher, wasn't bitterness or hostility.
It was detailed analysis of every moving part in his delivery, because somewhere between his leg kick and his release point, Wilson thought, was the solution to becoming the consistent strike-thrower the Angels have always wanted him to be.
"I have to figure out what's going to help me hit the glove," Wilson said after leading the Angels to a 2-0 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field on Tuesday night. "That's the most important thing. Constantly. And what's going to allow me to have sharp stuff while I hit the glove. That's 85 percent of pitching."
And that's what made Wilson's first start of 2015 so encouraging.
It wasn't just the eight shutout innings, or the two hits he allowed, or even the one walk that he issued against the Angels' division rivals.
It's the efficiency with which he did all of that.
It was the 20th time Wilson had thrown at least eight innings, but it was the first time he did it with fewer than 100 pitches. He needed only 96 of them, eight of which came in the eighth inning, when Wilson retired his 15th, 16th and 17th consecutive batter.
After throwing 17.7 pitches per inning last year -- third-most in the Majors -- he threw only 12 per inning on Tuesday. After throwing 58.4 percent strikes last year -- lowest in the Majors -- he threw 68.4 percent strikes Tuesday.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia called it "a masterpiece," and he never uses that word.
"I disagree," Wilson said, dissatisfied with the fact that his offspeed pitches weren't of much use.
But after a 2014 season that saw him post a 6.04 ERA in his last 16 starts and lead the AL in walks despite missing three weeks while on the disabled list, it was a sight for sore eyes nonetheless.
"Yeah," Wilson said, "I'll take it."
"What he did was special," Angels third baseman David Freese said. "Every pitch, he reared back and let it fire. He threw a lot of strikes and pounded the zone."
Wilson worked quickly, attacked the lower half of the strike zone with fastballs, threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 27 batters he faced, "and even with two strikes," Wilson said, "I wasn't necessarily trying to be too fine."
That's what the Angels have always wanted to hear.
With $38 million owed to him over the next two years, and questions throughout their rotation heading in, this is the Wilson the Angels need.
"Every pitfall you have is just a chance for you to come back up," Wilson said. "Indiana Jones doesn't just solve the problem right away in the Temple of Doom. He has to go through some trials. There are alligators and stones falling out; people are getting their hearts ripped out. Sometimes it's bad, but you have to stay the course. That's the way I look at it."