They used to get on Wilson a little differently in the ninth inning when he was a closer. Now they love him as a starter and right now there is little not to love. Wilson turned in another superb performance with a five-hit complete-game effort in beating defending American League Cy Young winner Zack Greinke at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"What a pitching performance by C.J.," manager Ron Washington said after Wilson raised his record to 3-1 with a 1.51 ERA in six starts.
This was his second complete game -- the first that went nine innings -- and his sixth straight "quality start." He joins Kevin Brown (1993) and Charlie Hough (1988) as the only three Rangers starting pitchers to begin a season with six such starts. Nobody has done it seven times.
"For him to pitch the way he has for us has been huge," third baseman Michael Young said.
A quality start is defined as three or fewer earned runs in six or more innings. But Wilson has allowed one or fewer runs in four of his six starts. He allowed two runs over six innings in a 4-2 victory over the White Sox on April 27 and five runs -- three earned -- in his rain-shortened, six-inning complete game against the Yankees on April 16.
That was his first start after having to deal with food poisoning. Since that night he is 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA in four starts and the Rangers have won all four games. This one came after the Rangers' 13-12 victory on Thursday when they ran through five of seven relievers.
In other words, it was good timing for a complete game, not that there is ever an inopportune time for a starter to go nine and spare the bullpen.
"I had a good feeling about it," Wilson said. "I got out of a few innings with a single-digit pitch count and, I got to the sixth inning and wanted to finish it off. I got to the eighth inning and clicked it into another gear."
Wilson ended up allowing five hits, two walks and one hit batter while striking out four. All five hits were singles.
Check this out: Wilson has now allowed 31 hits in 41 2/3 innings and all but four have been singles. He has allowed four doubles, no triples and no home runs.
"He was pretty much right on and hitting every spot he wanted to throw to ... and just throwing a good mix of pitches," Royals first baseman Billy Butler said.
"He was pretty good because his cutter looks like a fastball," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "You can put contact on it, but it's not good contact. We didn't have enough to go with the offense to give Zack, once again, any run support."
Instead Greinke fell to 0-4 despite a 2.51 ERA. But the Rangers got to him early, led by the scorching-hot Vladimir Guerrero. He led off the second inning and crushed a first-pitch curveball over the left-field wall for a home run. That gave him three home runs on three consecutive at-bats and just four pitches going back to Thursday night.
"That was really a bad pitch," Greinke said. "That one was awful and he hit it. It was probably too good of a pitch for him to hit that good, actually. Usually he doesn't hit pitches right down the middle that good."
Said Wilson, "When Vlad hit that home run I knew we were going to win. Every single thing came together tonight."
The Rangers, after a double by David Murphy, added an unearned run that inning when Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt dropped Matt Treanor's routine two-out popup for an error. Guerrero, after a couple of hits by Elvis Andrus and Young, added a sacrifice fly in the third and now has 12 RBIs in his last four games.
Young also had an RBI single in the fifth and the Rangers have now won four of the last five times they have faced the Royals with Greinke on the mound.
"We just had great at-bats from top to bottom," Murphy said. "Everybody brought their 'A' game tonight."
"Zack is always tough, day or night, home or road," Young said. "You just have to make an effort to swing at strikes. You don't want to do him any favors by swinging at pitches outside of the zone and we did a good job of staying in the zone."
Said Washington, "The type of guy Greinke is, you have to stay close. That's the way you beat that kind of guy. You let him get a lead and he's going to take it to the end. Tonight it was C.J. taking it to the end."
Much to the fans' delight.