No, Chicken Little, the sky isn't falling ... well, not yet anyway. That formidable second-half schedule is looking just a little less ominous after swiping three out of four from the Red Sox in baseball's oldest shrine, and the visions of impending disaster evoked by the Rangers' four-game misadventure against Baltimore have, for now at least, been forgotten. If there's actual value in having a 'short memory' baseball-wise, this was definitely one of those situations where it acted as a virtue.
Arguably the second-most impressive feat achieved during this past series -- after Bengie Molina's encounter with baseball immortality, of course -- was C.J. Wilson outdueling elite-caliber southpaw Jon Lester, somebody who is, in many respects, what we wish C.J. could become: a high-strikeout, heavy ground ball-inducing starting pitcher who manages to keep his walk totals in check. Of course, such pitchers are extremely rare and highly coveted, so that never should have been (and never was) a realistic/fair expectation for Wilson, and at this point, it seems fair to surmise that it's simply not in his nature to be that sort of pitcher.
Generally speaking, Wilson has always been more than happy to nip at the boundaries and less inclined to relentlessly pound the strike zone, and that has held true to a great extent this season; however, one wonders if this isn't something of a carryover effect from his four-year relief stint, during which it often made plentiful sense to concentrate on throwing so-called 'perfect' pitches -- particularly when summoned into situations where a perfect pitch was required to escape a perilous situation. On the surface, there isn't a clear reason as to why he should alter this approach, as he experienced success with it as a reliever and now, on a run-prevention level, is doing so again.
All that being said, perhaps his corner-nibbling tendencies haven't translated to the starting game quite as well as one might have hoped at the outset of the season. The expectation that Wilson's strikeout rates would fall to some degree was always present, but I don't think a 25-30 percent plunge below the league-average threshold was widely anticipated. And even in a start in which he worked vigorously to shake the low-strikeout label, a game in which he logged a career-high 10 strikeouts in 6.2 innings and did a reasonably good job of hitting his spots around and throughout the strike zone, there was still something worth raising an eyebrow at -- namely, the five walks.
I suppose my greatest concern about Wilson -- that is, aside from any workload-related apprehension I still privately harbor, which may be due to increase as he approaches the unchartered waters beyond the 130-inning mark -- is that his rock-bottom home run rate seems destined to creep northward a bit, and that, working in conjunction with a higher-than-average walk rate, may well spell trouble for his earned-run numbers as the Rangers approach their stretch drive.
If so, his performance going forward will be more akin to that of a No. 3-4 starter than the No. 2-level starter that he has represented to date, and perhaps intensify the debate on whether he would deserve a spot in the three-man post-season rotation ... but that debate is best left for some yet-to-be-determined point after September 1st (or if/when Texas actually clinches something), and if C.J. is actually a "problem" in that he might resemble only a league-average starter the rest of the way, well, that's one hell of a nice problem to have.