C.J. Wilson channels 'Game of Thrones' intensity in Angels' win over A's
C.J. Wilson didn't come to the ballpark Saturday afternoon with a clear head.
A mild head cold had him in a fog, but that was fixable. All it took was a whiff of ammonia (commonly known as smelling salts), a trick he picked up from former teammate Eric Gagne. It was something else that left his head spinning before making his start against the Oakland A's.
"I watched the last episode of 'Game of Thrones' today and I was just really drained," he said, following the Angels' 1-0 win. "It was just up and down. Was it going to turn out well for Daenerys Targaryen? My wife and I are big fans of her."
The entire game, he said, was just draining. Pitching with a one-run lead is mentally taxing, especially when you're worried about the fate of your favorite TV character.
But judging by his line, he made it look easy.
Wilson tossed seven shutout innings of two-hit ball, striking out eight. Although his pitch count crept up a little higher than he would have liked after issuing three walks, it was a strong, bounce-back effort after losing three of his last four starts.
"The goal is to go out there and prevent the other team from scoring as much as possible, and tonight, I just did a little better job of that," he said. "When you have a one-run lead, you can't make any mistakes. No matter what the count was I was just determined to pitch tough."
Outside of his own head, there was minimal trouble. He pitched out of it in the fifth and in the sixth he was bailed out by Efren Navarro. With two on and one out, Navarro snared a hard line drive and threw down to second to double off Josh Phegley and end the inning.
"He was in the zone early and often and had good stuff," manager Mike Scioscia said. "The only, probably, bump in the road was a couple of counts where he got ahead of guys and really didn't make pitches in the zones he wanted to put away and got into some counts deep. But he got some big outs, and none bigger than where he got the play from Efren to Erick and he got the double play."
The only run came in the first inning -- a solo home run by Albert Pujols. It was his 18th of the season and his 10th in 15 games. Wilson had been hoping that there was more where that came from.
Before each start, he always spends time with his wife and dogs. It's typically a relaxing ritual, but today it was a little more intense.
"Today it was like, 'Whoa man, I don't know how this is going to turn out!'" he said. "Today I was just like, 'Man, I really hope I get some run support.' And then it was rough."
It's been a strange season for him. He's battled through inconsistencies and pitched well when the run support was just as inconsistent. So he's made it his own mission to be consistent with one thing: Pitching more efficient so he's still fresh for a Division race in September.
This outing was a big step in the right direction.
"It's been a really challenging year for me with this first half being challenging for a lot of different reasons," he said. "I'm trying to make the most of it and give the team as many innings as possible. That's the one thing I've been consistent with."