ARLINGTON -- As C.J. Wilson's teammates funneled out of the dugout and back to the clubhouse after Wednesday's game, the Rangers closer remained on the bench, alone with his thoughts. The night should have belonged to the Texas bullpen, and Wilson could have been the star. Instead, he let in three runs in the ninth as Atlanta pulled away for a 5-2 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in front of 38,545 fans in attendance.
"I gave up the winning run. I blew it," Wilson said. "It's that simple."
When Wilson entered in the ninth, the Texas bullpen had already thrown three scoreless innings, having allowed only two baserunners. But Wilson's appearance fell apart instantly. With an 0-2 count on Jeff Francoeur, Wilson's next delivery wound up as a little squib hit between Wilson, catcher Gerald Laird and the first-base line. Instead of letting Laird take the ball and throw to first, Wilson fielded it, turned and threw errantly to first. The throw was low and towards foul territory and the ball darted between first baseman Chris Shelton and Francoeur -- who was running inside the baseline -- and down the foul line towards right field. Francoeur stopped on second, but scored the deciding run two batters later when Omar Infante singled to right field. The Braves then tacked on two more runs against Wilson. The loss dropped Texas back below .500, at 36-37. In retrospect, Wilson wished he'd let Laird take Francoeur's dribbler. "He called me off, and I took it anyway," Wilson said. "I just kept going for it. If I'd hit [Francoeur], he'd been out. If I'd made a good throw, he'd been out. If I'd let Gerald take it, he'd been out. Pretty much, I did everything wrong." Laird wasn't as hard on Wilson. "He made a mistake. It happens," Laird said. "Him being a left-hander, it's an easier play for me. But it's tough. He's an athlete, and he felt like he could make the play." Wilson's rough ninth inning wasted three great innings from the rest of the Texas bullpen. Frank Francisco, who entered the game with an 8.59 ERA this month, came in first to relieve starter Eric Hurley and did so in a less than desirable situation. Hurley came out for the sixth, but didn't record an out, instead putting runners on first and second with no outs. But Francisco responded, striking out Mark Teixeira. Then, after walking Brian McCann to load the bases, Francisco struck Francoeur out looking and got Brandon Jones to fly out to center to end the threat. "He was huge," manager Ron Washington said. "Especially coming through against the heart of their order. He did his job." Jamey Wright and Eddie Guardado bridged the gap to Wilson, retiring six of seven batters faced. Guardado pitched a perfect inning against the likes of Chipper Jones, Teixeira and McCann. The middle relievers' strong performance came on the heels of a solid start from Hurley, who is still in search of his first Major League decision. Other than surrendering a solo home run to Chipper Jones in the first inning, Hurley gave the Rangers as much as they could have hoped for in his first start at his hitter-friendly home park. The right-hander retired the next six batters he faced after Jones' home run, and allowed one more run the rest of the night. Hurley went five innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks, striking out five. His second run allowed came on back-to-back hits by Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson in the third inning that put Atlanta up, 2-0. Hurley did lack control on occasion. Eight times, he went to full counts against Braves batters. As a result, by the end of the fifth, he'd thrown 95 pitches. When he left in the sixth, only 62 of his 106 pitches were strikes. "They worked him pretty good. He ran out of gas in the sixth," Washington said. "They made him throw some pitches, but he hung in there and battled." And his offense battled back to get him off the hook for the loss. German Duran manufactured a run in the third after getting hit by a pitch. He stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a Laird single. Marlon Byrd reached on a fielder's choice in the sixth and manufactured a run of his own. He, too, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by McCann before scoring on a Brandon Boggs single. But the Rangers couldn't muster a rally in the ninth to get Wilson off the hook. "C.J. is only human," Washington said. "And he hurts more than I do right now."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.