It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. That expression, uttered by parents to kids for generations, was ringing in the ears of Angels Manager Mike Scioscia in the fifth inning of Thursday's 7-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Scioscia watched in horror as pitcher C.J. Wilson, trying to stretch a single into a double in a two-run game, launched his body into a wild, twisting headfirst slide into second base in an attempt to avoid shortstop Nick Ahmed's tag.
The left-hander was called out as he tried to reach back for the base with his right hand. After hitting the ground, Wilson flipped over on his left side, his momentum carrying him a few feet beyond the bag.
Wilson is athletic for a pitcher and was a good outfielder in college, but Mike Trout, he is not. Wilson, 34, has been an American League pitcher for 11 years, which means he doesn't hit much — this was his 28th career at-bat — and runs the bases even less.
It seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, but Wilson, much to the relief of his manager, got up after the play, ran off the field and remained in the game, giving up one run and nine hits in eight innings, striking out nine and walking none to improve to 5-5 and lower his earned-run average to 3.39.
That did little to mollify Scioscia, who clearly thought Wilson's baserunning was reckless.
"Those are the kinds of slides that end careers if it's on the wrong side," Scioscia said. "I was obviously concerned when I saw it. C.J. felt it was more on his right side, he's athletic enough, and he came out of it unscathed. … But you still cringe when you see a pitcher doing that."
The Angels had scored all of 11 runs in their previous five games and had a 2-0 lead when Wilson lined his two-out single to right-center. Thinking he would have a much better chance of scoring from second, Wilson did not slow as he rounded first and right fielder Yasmany Tomas fielded the ball.
"I got a good break out of the box and ran hard — I was gonna challenge him right there," Wilson said. "I work on a lot of plyometrics and stuff like that, so I figured I might as well try to flex the New Balances a little bit. He made a perfect throw. I tried to do a Mike Trout turbo-slide, but he just nicked me in the elbow."
Plenty of American League pitchers look overmatched in the batter's box and awkward on the basepaths, but Wilson, in an effort to be a complete player, has always taken those tasks seriously.
"If you're a bad athlete, then you're not going to try something like that," Wilson said. "I'm a good athlete, so every time I get on base I'm either gonna try to advance on a ground ball or a wild pitch or break up a double play. It's the way I've always played.
"I'm not gonna concede any effort level out there, because in a one- or two-run game, an insurance run could be the difference. I expect all the players to play hard all the time, and we do. I went up to [Erick] Aybar and asked if that was stupid. He was like, 'I would've done the same thing.' I was like, 'All right, cool.' "
Before Wilson's slide, the Angels had some actual fun and games, giving Taylor Featherston the silent treatment when the .100-hitting rookie infielder returned to the dugout after lining his first career homer to left for a 1-0 lead in the third.
"Growing up, you always see that on SportsCenter," said Featherston, who was eventually mobbed. "It's part of the game, a rite of passage. I loved it."
The Angels enjoyed it so much that when Johnny Giavotella hit a solo homer two batters later, they gave him the silent treatment with a twist, even though it was the second baseman's sixth career homer.
"I was a little shocked," Giavotella said. "I came in and no one was congratulating me. I felt like I just struck out."
Scioscia then called Giavotella over and, in the words of Giavotella, "reamed me out" for being out of position during a Paul Goldschmidt at-bat. A minute later, the entire bench broke out in laughter, and Scioscia congratulated Giavotella.
"After that," Giavotella said, "it was a little less stressful."