It's funny how so much hype can be generated in the span of 48 hours without an earth-shattering trade and/or news story being the instigating source. Two days, two enormous home wins in front of near-sellout crowds, and a newfound seven-game lead -- the largest enjoyed by Texas since the end of the 1999 season, as well as the highest post-season odds percentage (90 percent), which is rather odd in that the 1999 iteration of the Rangers also sat at 57-40 with a seven-game lead on the evening of Saturday, July 24th, 1999.
Of course, the two teams couldn't be more dissimilar in terms of starting pitching, a facet of the game in which the Rangers yet again dominated by means of silencing the less potent bats of their most prominent divisional rival. C.J. Wilson's second superb effort of the week (8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 104 pitches) was so understated that one might not have fully grasped the significance of it until his swinging punch-out of Maicer Izturis to end the eighth inning, a moment that sent a triple-digit decibel count reverberating throughout a jam-packed Ballpark. That was in no way, shape or form your typical courteous round of applause after a good performance. That was a stadium full of people who could taste playoff fever.
Of particular interest in this start was Wilson's heavy reliance upon -- and corresponding success with -- the fastball; against the Red Sox last Sunday in Fenway Park, Wilson employed his fastball variants less than 80 percent of the time, but that figure jumped to nearly 90 percent last night ... and yet, this tactic paid off handsomely, as the Angels managed just three well-hit balls all evening. The league-average well-hit ratio against fastballs is .233; last night, Wilson suppressed that figure to a meager .130 (3-for-23, which really seems to tie into his stated emphasis on maximizing hitter discomfort and suppressing opponents' slugging percentages to the maximum extent possible.
In the grand scheme of things, Wilson isn't going to get away with striking out merely 3-4 batters per nine innings, and the Wilson-related concerns I mentioned at the outset of this week haven't gone away, but ... hell, what can I say about two brilliant back-to-back pitching performances? When was the last time we had the privilege of enjoying something this special? And if this really is the beginning of Wilson tapping into his more walk-averse side, and he proves capable of sustaining that -- and his health -- the rest of the way, there's going to be a very interesting post-season discussion about the merits of trying to lock him up through 2013-14 with a big-money contract at, say, three years and $33 million with a fourth-year club option.