ARLINGTON, Texas — There was no sugarcoating how much lefty C.J. Wilson baffled the Rays entering Friday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
The Rangers' All-Star ace was 5-0 for his career with a 1.94 ERA against Tampa Bay, including a shutout last month.
"He really dominated us," third baseman Evan Longoria said.
But Tampa Bay turned the tables in Friday's 9-0 win, tagging Wilson for a career-high-matching eight runs (six earned) over five innings, including three homers in an outing he labeled "the exact opposite of success."
It was as many runs as he had allowed in his previous six starts combined.
"(Friday) was rare," Wilson said. "Very rare."
The Rays made some adjustments but said Wilson had an unusual lack of command.
"The ball was just never really where I wanted it completely," Wilson, 30, said. "Some batters, I felt like I just was going to dominate, and others I was changing my location around and the ball was kind of squirting out, not really going where I wanted it to. It was kind of strange."
Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach, who had two homers and five RBIs, said Johnny Damon's two-run homer in the second "gave us all a little fresh air" and took some pressure off. Damon's blast came on a 3-and-1 count; Wilson was behind in the count on five of the seven hits he allowed.
Shoppach's two homers marked the first time in Wilson's career, spanning 77 starts, that he allowed multiple blasts to the same hitter in a game.
"When any pitcher, no matter who it is, is falling behind hitters and they get a chance to get a better chance at getting a fastball to hit, you get a chance to do some damage," Shoppach said.
Centerfielder B.J. Upton said the Rays also planned to be more aggressive in the strike zone. But Longoria noticed it wasn't the same Wilson they saw before.
"The past four times we've faced C.J., he's just been down in the zone, just commanded the strike zone pretty well and made pitches when he needed to," Longoria said. "And (in Friday's) game, he got behind in the counts, and when he did get behind, he wasn't able to make that big pitch. He was leaving the ball in the middle of the plate.
"We're all major-league hitters, and when a guy is throwing the ball over the middle of the plate, more times than not, that's when he's going to get hit hard."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]imes.com.