To explain his recent struggles, Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson compared his pitching to golf. In his previous start, when he gave up three home runs in 41/3 innings, he was way off in the woods.
Against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday at Angel Stadium, he kept the ball in play, but he wasn’t quite precise. As a golfer adjusts and crafts his shots, he said, so must a pitcher. And Wilson’s touch has been off for long enough — four starts — to prompt some worry.
“Naturally, when a pitcher like C.J. goes the wrong way for so long, you’re concerned,” Manager Mike Scioscia said.
The Angels have the hitting to keep winning in the regular season. They slugged their way back in an 8-7 victory against the Blue Jays thanks to a go-ahead two-run home run by Albert Pujols in the seventh inning. It was their 27th comeback victory and eighth after trailing by three runs of more.
The standard, though, is the Oakland Athletics, the only team with a better record than the Angels and owners of a four-game lead in the American League West. The Athletics bolstered an already strong rotation by trading for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Their rotation is among the league’s best.
Now, some fissures have emerged in the Angels rotation, mostly because of Wilson and Jered Weaver, typically the rotation’s stalwarts.
Weaver left Monday’s game because of tightness in his back. He threw a bullpen session and long toss Wednesday, and Scioscia said the right-hander should be ready for his scheduled start Saturday. If the injury is more serious, the Angels will need more offensive performances like the one Wednesday to keep winning.
Wilson’s troubles are more nebulous. On Wednesday, he lasted only 32/3 innings and gave up six runs — three earned — and eight hits. In his last four starts, he has surrendered 19 earned runs and 31 hits in 162/3 innings. His ERA has climbed just shy of one run over that span. Yet, his velocity is where it should be, and he feels healthy, unlike when he battled an elbow injury in 2012.
His problems have changed from game to game, he said. He was hammered in his last start, against the Houston Astros when, he said, a “couple dudes were just hitting rockets, balls flying off the rocks in center field, balls going over the fence.”
The Blue Jays inflicted damage mostly with singles. He wasn’t battered as he was against Houston; he just couldn’t get outs. He labored, with each pitch and each at-bat taxing. During his four-game swoon, he has averaged more than 20 pitches per inning.
“It’s hard to pinpoint,” he said. “Because it’s not like every game I go up there and give up a bunch of home runs or every game I walk like 10 guys.”
The one constant is his pitch location. He would get deep into counts against the Blue Jays or miss with a thigh-high fastball.
With the bullpen taxed after eating innings for Weaver and Wilson, Scioscia said the team could look to temporarily add rested arms for the series against the Texas Rangers. The roster already has an extra pitcher with Cam Bedrosian, who was added Tuesday to bolster the bullpen.
As he was against the Astros, Wilson was bailed out by the Angels persistent offensive effort, which is outpacing the pitching and defense. The team committed three errors and made several ill-advised defensive decisions. But the bats worked just fine. Eight of nine starters recorded a hit. Pujols’ blast to center field had just enough to tip over Colby Rasmus’ outstretched glove.
It was Pujols’ 512th home run. That tied him for 21st all-time with Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews.
“At the end of my career, that’s when I’m going to look back and see what I’ve done,” Pujols said. “It’s hard for me to get caught up because I’m not a guy that gets caught up with numbers. I respect this game too much.”