As good as the Rangers have been this season, there's been a perception that the team is missing someone who had a lot to do with their run to the World Series in 2010.
Cliff Lee's work at the top of the rotation last season was a major part of their first trip to the World Series and his absence has caused some to wonder if the Rangers had a horse they could ride through the wilds of the postseason. The proof, as always, will be in the pudding, but C.J. Wilson has given the team plenty of reason to believe they are in good shape in that department.
Wilson struggled early against Boston on Monday night, but escaped any damage and wound up throwing 6.2 innings of shutout baseball. Put that together with his Opening Day start against the Sox and you get 12.1 innings with a 1.46 ERA against the Sox this season. Over the last two seasons, he's 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA against Boston.
The only other pitcher with four wins against Boston in that time period is David Price, a pitcher who doesn't need to convince anyone of his bona fides at the top of a rotation. Wilson probably shouldn't have to do any convincing, especially when he'll land a monster contract this offseason, but here's some more evidence of his ability to bring his A-game when the Rangers need it most.
Wilson allowed two earned runs in eight innings in a no-decision against the Yankees in June, his only start against the AL East leaders so far this season. He doesn't have the same record of success against the Yankees as he does against the Red Sox -- he struggled against them in five outings split between the regular season and playoffs last year -- but he's not pitching against last year's Yankees any more.
He has a 2-0 record and a 1.34 ERA against the White Sox and Indians, two teams that are still within striking distance of the Tigers in the AL Central. Detroit handled him pretty well in their one meeting this season, four earned runs in 6.2 innings, but there's no chance the Rangers will play the Tigers until the ALCS. If they make it that far, they'll take their chances.
The icing on this particular cake is that Wilson pitched well in his start against the Phillies even though he wound up with the loss. There's no point in looking that far ahead, but it does provide further evidence that Wilson doesn't shrink from the big moments.
As of right now, the Rangers have the best looking rotation from top to bottom of any team in the American League. All three of the other likely American League playoff outfits -- four, if you count the Angels -- are perceived to have better aces fronting their staffs, however.
That perception might be true over the course of an entire season. When it comes to one game against a good team, though, it seems that Wilson can hold his own just fine.