The Angels are fully prepared to use a bullpen relay team to fill the rotation spot vacated by the injured Garrett Richards. They did not think they'd need a similar relief effort in the games C.J. Wilson pitches.
But Wilson dropped the baton Tuesday night, getting pounded for five runs and eight hits in 31/3 innings of an 8-3 loss to the Houston Astros in Minute Maid Park, and five relievers were left to clean up the mess.
"I was the only person who cost us the game," Wilson said after the Angels had a winning streak ended at six games. "Everybody else did their job. The offense scored. The defense played well. I gave up a couple of quick runs, and that was it."
Wilson seemed to turn a corner in his previous four starts, giving up seven earned runs in 24 innings (2.63 earned-run average) of victories over Philadelphia and Boston and two no-decisions against Oakland.
With Richards suffering a season-ending knee injury Aug. 20, the Angels need Wilson to pitch more like the front-of-the-rotation left-hander he was in Texas in 2010 and 2011, not the guy who had an 11.03 ERA in an ugly six-start stretch from June 24 to Aug. 7.
But five batters into Tuesday night's game, Wilson gave up a double to Robbie Grossman, a single to Jose Altuve, run-scoring singles to Dexter Fowler and Chris Carter, and a 400-foot sacrifice fly to Jason Castro, the first out coming on Wilson's 27th pitch.
And these were no cheapies. They were rockets. Center fielder Mike Trout had to make a leaping catch at the wall of Castro's drive, and after a Matt Dominguez single, Jake Marisnick lined into an inning-ending double play.
Wilson struck out the side in the second inning, but gave up a leadoff home run to Altuve in the third, a leadoff double to Marisnick in the fourth, and the Astros were well on their way to a victory in the managerial debut of Tom Lawless, who replaced the fired Bo Porter on Monday.
Wilson said his fastball was "mediocre" and his changeup "was the pitch that got me into trouble." Many of his curves bounced in the dirt.
"C.J. just never got into a groove," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He wasn't as crisp as he needed to be. He was behind in too many counts, and when he made some pitches that weren't quite there, they hit him hard. … We hope this is an isolated game. We really need C.J."
The Angels bolstered their pitching staff and bench before the game by adding 11 players from triple A — pitchers Cory Rasmus, Vinnie Pestano, Cam Bedrosian and Wade LeBlanc, outfielders Tony Campana and Brennan Boesch, first basemen C.J. Cron and Efren Navarro, third baseman Luis Jimenez, catcher John Buck and utility infielder Shawn O'Malley.
The need for pitching is obvious, and Scioscia said he can now "mix and match" the final spot in the order. Buck gives Scioscia the option of giving hot-hitting catcher Chris Iannetta an occasional start at designated hitter.
Campana, one of the fastest players in the organization, will be used as a pinch-running specialist, much like Chone Figgins was during the team's 2002 run to the World Series.
"If I can bring that to the team, it would be awesome," said Campana, who was acquired from Arizona on July in a trade for Joe Thatcher and hit .277 with 17 stolen bases in 28 tries in 100 triple-A games. "If I can help win a game by stealing a base or scoring from first on a double, I'm down to do it."
Shuck hit .293 with 60 runs in 129 games for the Angels last season and .320 with a .382 on-base percentage in 102 games at Salt Lake this season. Kohn had a 3.74 ERA in 63 games for the Angels in 2013 and a 4.76 ERA in 33 games at Salt Lake this season.
"We don't take any of these decisions lightly," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said.