ARLINGTON -- Cliff Lee is having an impact on the Rangers in more ways than one. A night after Lee held the Angels in check for his first win with Texas, C.J. Wilson turned in arguably his best performance of the season, silencing the Angels with eight shutout innings as the Rangers won, 1-0, at the Ballpark in Arlington on Friday to extend their lead in the American League West to seven games. But the first person Wilson credited was Lee.
"We acquired Cliff so he would win games, but we also acquired Cliff because he'd make everybody else better," Wilson said. "I've been watching his videotape for two years now ... and having him actually being here and finding out the methods behind his approach, it's already having an effect." Wilson struck out only three Angels -- seven off the mark he recorded Sunday in a win against the Red Sox -- but held the Halos to just four singles and didn't walk a single batter. "I'd say that was the best outing I've had all year, simply because of the fact I didn't walk anybody," Wilson said. "That was the best part of it for me." Watching Lee in person and seeing what works in his starts is what has benefited Wilson, who has pitched immediately after Lee in three consecutive starts now. "You see what works. When you're watching on TV, you really get a chance to see [things]," Wilson said. "It's all about location. That's the one thing that Cliff and I always talk about. He said, 'Look, they know what I'm going to throw. I've been pitching for seven years and I've thrown X amount of innings or whatever it is.' They know exactly what he's got, and that's why he's so aggressive. And he uses that to his advantage." And it's that aggressiveness that Wilson is trying to work on himself. "He goes out there and pitches, but he only pitches as much as he needs to," Wilson said. "That's the thing I've had a problem with over the years. I adjust too quick because I'm trying to outthink the hitter too much sometimes instead of forcing them to outthink me." That may not have been any more evident than in the seventh inning. Wilson already had his one-run lead -- which quickly came in the form of Michael Young's homer in the first inning -- and was in the midst of retiring 12 consecutive Angels hitters. But after falling behind to Torii Hunter 3-0, Wilson roared back with three consecutive strikes to retire the Angels' cleanup hitter. It snapped the only legitimate chance the Halos had of forcing a walk -- something they've yet to do so far in this four-game series. "He's been kind of the bane of my existence for a couple of years now," Wilson said of Hunter. "He's hit me really well. The last couple of games, I've pitched him more effectively. He's the best player, so you don't want to give him a chance to hit the home run. When I got the pitch right above the knee, I knew he was bummed because that's his pitch to hit. Now I'm going to go back to work." Hunter has also noticed a difference between Wilson now that the Rangers have added a Cy Young Award winner to their rotation. "He was different than I've seen him before," Hunter said. "He was throwing like Cliff Lee. He stayed away all night, throwing backdoor cutters. That's why Cliff Lee's been so successful -- and [Wilson] was very successful tonight." Manager Ron Washington has also seen a difference in Wilson, who has posted a 0.61 ERA in his two starts since the All-Star break. "C.J. has aspirations to be the best, and we certainly consider Cliff Lee the best," Washington said. "So C.J. went out there tonight and showed he's capable of certainly stepping up there and being considered one of the best. It's just not tonight. The last game he pitched he was outstanding." For Washington, Wilson's performance was the best he had seen to date. Not only did the left-hander not issue a walk, but he didn't allow a single Angels player to reach second base. "I don't think we can be any happier than what C.J. did tonight," Washington said. "He was in command from the first pitch. I really believe he came into his own tonight. He was just outstanding." Added Wilson: "I was determined not to walk anybody. I was really determined not to walk anybody. My misses are becoming smaller and smaller. Even when I miss, it's three inches down or two inches away, which is a big departure from earlier in the season." Wilson's performance continues a stretch of dominant pitching the Rangers have received in each of the first two games with the Angels. Lee and Wilson have combined to limit their AL West rival to just two runs on nine hits with no walks over 16 1/3 innings. And as a result, the Rangers have their largest lead in the division since they last won it in 1999. "That was huge. Having Cliff on the roster is going to be huge for C.J.," said Young, who has homered during the first inning in each of the first two games against the Angels. "Cliff's kind of the prototype for the lefty with great location, great tempo, who goes right after guys. C.J. didn't have any walks, went right after guys and really forced the action."
Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.