When C.J. Wilson walked off the mound during the sixth inning in what could have been his last start for the Rangers, they were down by a run.
This time, his outing was good enough for Texas.
Despite another erratic performance against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wilson kept his team close in a second World Series matchup with ace Chris Carpenter.
"He was getting in trouble and getting out, and I was certainly hoping for the one inning when he could go out there and find his rhythm," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It was a battle for him all night. ... He kept us in the ballgame even though it wasn't a C.J.-like type game."
The Rangers tied the score in the bottom of the sixth, took the lead in the eighth and are one win from their first championship after a 4-2 victory Monday night that gave them a 3-2 Series lead.
Winless this postseason (0-3, 6.08 ERA in five starts) after winning 16 games as Texas' No. 1 starter in the regular season, Wilson walked five batters, threw a wild pitch and had a fielding error. Two of his walks in Game 5 were intentional passes to slugger Albert Pujols.
Yet the Rangers trailed only 2-1 when the free agent-to-be lefty exited with one out and one on in the sixth. Wilson's 108th and last pitch was a single by David Freese.
"In situations like this where you have everything on the line and it's the most important game of your career, you can't let the situation overwhelm you," Wilson said. "I have confidence in myself because I've done it so many times. At this point in the year, I've thrown I don't even know how many innings and I've been in that situation before. It's not a big deal.
"If I can hold the line, then our team's going to come back and score," he added. "That's the way I feel every time."
Colby Lewis starts Game 6 for Texas against Jaime Garcia on Wednesday night in St. Louis.
Since making the transition from the bullpen, Wilson has gone 31-15 with a 3.14 ERA over 67 starts the past two regular seasons. Including the postseason, he has thrown 478 1-3 innings during that span
When asked about the possibility that he might have pitched his last game for the Rangers, Wilson said he wasn't going to respond to that question.
Drafted by Texas in 2001, Wilson made his major league debut four years later. He took over as the team's No. 1 starter after ace left-hander Cliff Lee left in free agency following last year's World Series loss to San Francisco.
The Cardinals got both their runs in the second, an inning that started with consecutive walks to Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. Before the second walk, Holliday had already slid headfirst into second base after Wilson threw a wild pitch that bounced at the feet of Berkman and got away from catcher Mike Napoli.
After Freese hit a fly ball, Yadier Molina had an RBI single to left before Skip Schumaker drove in another run with a groundball for a 2-0 lead.
Rafael Furcal then opened the third with a bunt single. He went to second base after Wilson, who had slipped coming off the mound, picked up the ball with his bare hand and tried to a backhand flip. The ball barely got off the ground and rolled past first baseman Mitch Moreland for an error.
But Wilson escaped unscathed when, after an intentional walk to Pujols, Holliday grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"C.J., he's a workhorse. Even if he doesn't have his stuff that night, he's going to do whatever he can to keep his team in the game," said Moreland, who had a long homer in the third. "He's been a great, great guy to play behind for us as our No. 1 through the year. Tonight kind of proved it. It might not have been his best night, he might not have had his stuff or his location, but he kept us in the game. That's what he's going to do."
In Game 1 of the World Series on the road, Wilson had a Rangers postseason-high six walks (two intentional). He gave up three runs in 5 2-3 innings, but left with the game tied 2-all before Texas lost 3-2.
The 11 walks by Wilson in this World Series are the most since Allie Reynolds had 11 for the 1951 Yankees, according to STATS LLC. His 19 walks in the postseason match Jaret Wright's mark set in 1997.
"Whether C.J. put a bunch of guys on or whatever, he kept them off the scoreboard," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It's not the way he wanted to pitch, it's not the way any of us thought he would pitch, but he did his job."
Scott Feldman finished off the sixth, allowing a single to Molina before getting a grounder and then striking out Nick Punto for the third out.
Then, with two outs in the bottom of the inning, Adrian Beltre dropped to his knee on a home run that tied the game at 2. Napoli, hitting eighth, had a two-run double in the eighth that moved the Rangers within one win of a title in the franchise's 51st season.
"We're close," Beltre said. "But we're not done yet."