Pitcher C.J. Wilson keeps Angels in game despite another high-wire act

C.J. Wilson was credited with a quality start in Saturday night’s 5-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field, which was remarkable considering there wasn’t much quality to it.

The Angels left-hander allowed three earned runs, five hits and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings, but he also walked four, hit a batter, committed a throwing error and was in constant trouble. It’s the kind of high-wire act he has become known for.

“It was a gritty performance,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He threw a lot of pitches. As the game went on, he got a little better with his command, but he was kind of on the edge all night. He didn’t command counts like he can.

“He had to pitch out of a lot of trouble, but he got out of it. Almost getting through seven innings was huge for as much traffic as they had on the bases. He got some big outs and kept us in the game.”

Which was of no consolation to Wilson, who fell to 7-7 with a 3.83 earned-run average on the season.

“A loss is a loss. There is no satisfaction in a loss,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter how well you pitch or how bad your stuff is or how much you try. This isn’t a try league. This is a win league. [Seattle starter Hisashi] Iwakuma made the big pitches, and I didn’t make as many big pitches. That’s the story of the game.”

Wilson retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the first, but the Mariners loaded the bases with no outs in the second and scored two runs on Jesus Montero’s bases-loaded walk and Brad Miller’s sacrifice fly. Mark Trumbo’s two-out run-scoring single in the third gave Seattle a 3-0 lead.

Wilson’s line score would have been worse had he not pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth, when Robinson Cano was tagged out at home trying to advance on a ball that squirted past catcher Carlos Perez, Trumbo struck out and Montero grounded out.

“The first inning, I felt I had my stuff dialed in,” Wilson said. “In the second, the same effort level and same intention didn’t yield the same results. I was trying to throw sliders and they were bouncing uncompetitively, and the guys didn’t swing at them. I didn’t get ahead in the count because I was a little low.”

Iwakuma blanked the Angels on three hits for eight innings, striking out six and walking two, and the game turned in the first when he escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam with an assist from right fielder Nelson Cruz.

Johnny Giavotella opened with a walk, Kole Calhoun singled to right, and Mike Trout blooped a single to right to load the bases. Iwakuma struck out Albert Pujols, and Giavotella was forced out at home on Erick Aybar’s grounder to third.

David Freese smashed a line drive to right-center, but Cruz, hardly known for his defensive prowess, raced to the gap and made a backhand, diving catch to end the inning.

“David squared it up; it was a bullet,” Scioscia said. “From where we were, it looked like it had a chance to get in the gap. Cruz got a good jump, he had a good angle and made a really nice play that obviously tilted momentum their way.”

The catch gave Cruz a little bit of payback. It was Freese, then with the St. Louis Cardinals, who in hit the score-tying, two-run triple over the head of Cruz, then with the Texas Rangers, in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

The Rangers were a strike away from a championship when Cruz reacted poorly to Freese’s drive, tried to recover and drifted back slowly on the catchable ball, which bounced at the base of the wall. Freese won that game with an 11th-inning homer, and the Cardinals went on to win Game 7 and the series.

Asked if it was good to get a little revenge on Freese, Cruz looked surprised at first. When reminded of the 2011 World Series, he began laughing and denied feeling any extra sense of satisfaction.

Freese, too, said he did not have flashbacks to 2011.

“If the ball went off the wall and he jumped backwards, then I might have thought about it,” Freese said. “It was a different play.”

Wilson was a teammate of Cruz on that Rangers club and said that Cruz, a designated hittter who rarely plays defense, “gets a bad rap for being a bad outfielder.”

“I read that on the blogs all the time,” Wilson added, "but he’s got good enough instincts, and they put him in the right spot to make that catch.”

Did Wilson see any irony in the play?

“Poetic justice is super fun when you are writing a book,” he said. “It’s not any fun when it’s applied to you as a baseball player.”

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