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After celebrating title, Rangers fall to Mariners

After celebrating title, Rangers fall to Mariners

ARLINGTON -- Thankfully, C.J. Wilson will have another start Saturday to get himself ready for the playoffs. At least that's what they'll be saying on the outside for the next five days.

In Wilson's world, every game is its own season, a chance to get better. Wilson, who will start Game 2 of next week's American League Division Series, has been like that going back to Double-A Frisco, when he prepared for his starts like a Major Leaguer, taking notes on hitters and making the most of charting the pitches of his teammates.

So while some might be panicking a little bit over Monday's 7-5 loss to Seattle, which included him giving up a three-run homer to former teammate Justin Smoak, or Wilson's 6.26 ERA in five September starts, the laid back left-hander is just moving right along.

"It's like when I had this great start to the season," Wilson said, "everyone was like, 'Are you going to win all these games and stuff?' But even then I didn't win every one of my quality starts, you know? You're going to go five and get scored 10 sometimes, you're going to go eight and get scored one sometimes. You never really know what it's going to be.

"You're goal is to go out there and be consistent. I threw strikes tonight. I didn't walk anybody. I walked one dude. That's obviously near my career best."

Actually, Wilson had no walks in eight innings on July 24 against the Los Angeles Angels, and this was the fourth game this season during which he's had only a walk. But his point is well taken.

Wilson has earned his Game 2 start next Thursday because he has become a consistent pitcher, and his 14-8 record and 3.35 ERA back that up.

Monday night's start went sideways because Smoak's three-run homer in the top of the fifth turned a close 3-1 game into a sizeable 6-1 advantage for the Mariners. The Rangers climbed within a run after Wilson had departed after five innings, allowing six earned runs on eight hits.

"He got a pitch up to Smoak and that was the difference right there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "C.J.'s going to compete. He was out there competing tonight. They just put some hits together and scored some runs."

Wilson said he threw some good backdoor cutters, like one he struck out Adam Moore on in the third, and some good changeups, like one he punched out Josh Wilson with in the second. Wilson also fanned Ichiro Suzuki on a slider in the second with a runner in scoring position.

"That's really the only thing I can feel good about," Wilson said.

He didn't feel good about a fastball he left up to Smoak in the top of the fifth. Wilson actually retired the first two batters in the inning, Ichiro and Chone Figgins, but he walked Jose Lopez. Then Franklin Gutierrez extended the inning with a single, and Smoak, batting just .200 on the season, crushed a three-run home run over the left-field fence to give Seattle a 6-1 lead.

"It was probably the wrong pitch to throw," Wilson said. "It wasn't a very C.J. pitch."

The Rangers did rally in the seventh inning, trailing 6-2, as Cruz belted his own three-run home run, a two-out blast that ended up almost in the exact spot Smoak's landed. But Seattle's bullpen delivered after that, with Brandon League cruising through the top of the ninth for three straight outs.

"We made a good comeback, but we wasted some opportunities against their starter [David Pauley]," outfielder David Murphy said. "We're still out there trying to win games."

Wilson worked around a double in the first inning, but he couldn't get past a leadoff single by Smoak in the top of the second. Moore scored Smoak with a double off the right-field wall, and one batter later, Greg Halman added another double for a 2-0 Seattle lead.

Vladimir Guerrero pulled the Rangers within 2-1 with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the second, but Wilson couldn't to come through with a shutout inning in the top of the third.

Figgins, who doubled in the first, led off the inning with a single. Lopez singled, advancing Figgins to third, and Gutierrez made it 3-1 with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Wilson dismissed the notion that he was using Monday's start as a tuneup for next week.

"Spring Training is for getting ready and getting your work in," Wilson said. "You go out there to play. It's the Major Leagues. You want to do well for all sorts of reasons. Obviously, you want to go into the playoffs feeling good about yourself."

And in true C.J. form, he questioned how he could prepare for a start when he doesn't know if he'll be opposing Tampa Bay or the New York Yankees.

"That's then," Wilson said. "We don't know who we're playing then, so how can I prepare for that?"

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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