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Wilson wins on the road in Angels debut
MINNEAPOLIS – C.J. Wilson made himself at home as an Angel — on the road, where he has done some of his best work.
Wilson held the Minnesota Twins to three hits over seven innings in his Angels debut Monday as the Angels ruined the Twins' home opener by handing them a 5-1 defeat.
Wilson is 8-3 with a 1.87 ERA in his past 14 road starts dating to last June. His 2.31 ERA on the road last season was the lowest in the American League and third-lowest in the majors behind the Milwaukee Brewers' Shaun Marcum and Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay.
Monday was the ninth time in his past 19 starts on the road Wilson has gone at least six innings and allowed one run or no runs.
"I've always felt gray was a good color for me," Wilson said jokingly, referring to the traditional color for road uniforms. "I don't know just pitching in a difficult home ballpark (hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington) maybe had something to do with that. If the hitters go out there and get those early runs, I try to go in lockdown mode."
His teammates gave Wilson a 2-0 lead before he took the mound. After going 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Royals, they strung together three consecutive hits to score in the first against the Twins.
Albert Pujols pushed the envelope, going first to third on Kendrys Morales' single to center, then Pujols scored on Torii Hunter's RBI single. Morales trotted home when Bobby Abreu sliced an RBI ground-rule double down the left-field line.
"Our situational hitting last game was rough," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "But we bounced back today with some two-out hits. Those early runs were important for C.J. to settle in."
Wilson was dominant without really looking like it as he walked four, including one each in four of the first five innings. But he didn't give up a hit until there were two outs in the third and then got double plays in the fifth and seventh to short-circuit any Twins rallies.
"Early in the game, his stuff was really moving," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "It (the walks) wasn't that he was erratic. His stuff was just moving so much it was darting out of the strike zone. I think you could tell that by the way I was receiving pitches."
Through seven innings, the only ball hit in the air by the Twins was Josh Willingham's solo home run in the fourth inning on what Wilson called a "bad changeup."
"We just go and see what's working," Iannetta said when asked if the game plan was sinker-heavy against the Twins. "Early on, the sinker wasn't his best pitch. But after the third inning it was."
Willingham's home run made it a one-run game, with the Angels suddenly stymied by Twins starter Nick Blackburn. After getting to him early, Blackburn retired 15 consecutive Angels hitters following Abreu's double.
In the seventh, though, the Angels broke it open with three runs. Abreu's leadoff walk started the rally and Alberto Callaspo followed with an infield hit. With runners on first and second in such a close game, Iannetta anticipated being asked to bunt.
"In the back of my mind, I was thinking that was one possible scenario," he said. "I think that's what got me a good pitch to hit. They (the Twins) were thinking the same thing.
They'd been working me with two-seamers and cutters in. That was a four-seamer over the middle of the plate."
Iannetta drove the first pitch of the at-bat and the last pitch of Blackburn's day into the left-center field gap for a two-run double, his first RBIs as an Angel). Scioscia saved the bunt signal for Erick Aybar two batters later with Iannetta on third. Aybar's suicide squeeze was successful, scoring Iannetta to make it 5-1.
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