Wilson, the converted reliever who earned a rotation spot this spring, allowed only five singles in his first career nine-inning complete game in the Rangers’ 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night that kept reigning AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke(notes) winless.
“Once I got through the sixth with a low pitch count, I wanted to finish it off,” Wilson said. “Once I got into the eighth, I just clicked into another gear and went into closer mode.”
Vladimir Guerrero(notes) homered on the first pitch leading off the second, his third consecutive at-bat over two games with a home run. That put the Rangers ahead to stay against Greinke (0-4), the right-hander who made his seventh start of the season.
“When Vlad hit that home run, I knew that was it, that we were going to win,” Wilson said.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus(notes) made an incredible play to start the ninth, going deep in the hole toward third base and making an off-balance throw that was scooped by rookie first baseman Justin Smoak(notes) to retire Jose Guillen(notes). Alberto Callaspo(notes) then singled.
Wilson struck out four and walked two in 113 pitches to lower his ERA to 1.51, third-best in the American League.
“We got some runs up there and C.J. did the rest,” manager Ron Washington said. “You let those kind of guys (like Greinke) get the lead, they usually know how to take it to the finish line. But tonight, C.J. took it to the finish line.”
A night after Texas blew an 8-0 lead and had to rally for a 13-12 victory while overtaxing its bullpen again, Wilson did his part to give the relievers a break. No one even got up in the bullpen until the ninth.
“I know what it’s like to be in the bullpen and have to throw all the time,” Wilson said. “I knew those guys needed a day off after yesterday.”
It was Wilson’s second complete game in his six starts this season. But the other was only six innings, a rain-shortened 5-1 loss to the New York Yankees on April 16.
The three consecutive homers by Guerrero came in a span of four pitches. He homered in his last two at-bats Thursday night against the Royals, a two-run blast in the sixth and then a solo shot on an 0-1 pitch in the eighth that broke a 12-all tie.
“Vladdy is a superfreak. He can hit it above his head or off his feet,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
A sacrifice fly in the third inning Friday ended Guerrero’s homer streak, but gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
“I don’t think about anything when I go to the plate,” said Guerrero, who has six homers this season. “I just see the pitch and make a good cut.”
Greinke matched a season high by allowing four runs, three of them earned, over seven innings. His ERA increased from 2.27 to a still outstanding 2.51. He struck out three and walked one while throwing 73 of 108 pitches for strikes.
“Definitely not as sharp. They hit a lot of line drives. I wasn’t missing many bats or keeping them off balance,” Greinke said. “I’m just trying to keep us in ball games. We’re just getting beat right now.”
Julio Borbon(notes) snapped a 3-for-21 slump with a leadoff double for the Rangers in the fifth. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus before coming home on Michael Young’s(notes) second single of the game.
After Guerrero’s homer in the second, David Murphy(notes) had a one-out double and moved to third on a deep flyball. Murphy scored when shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) dropped a popup for an error.
NOTES: The game lasted only 2 hours, 9 minutes, the shortest at Rangers Ballpark since a two-hour game May 29, 2006, against Seattle. … Chuck Greenberg, whose group is trying to buy the Rangers, sat in the field-level owner’s box with Tom Hicks, whose financially strapped Hicks Sports Group is selling the team. … RF Murphy almost dropped Callaspo’s flyball. He scooped the ball into the air and then caught it, though it was still sticking out of the top of his glove to end the sixth.