ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Like Oakland and Detroit, the Angels added a veteran left-hander to the rotation this past week, one whose resume stacks up nicely against those of Jon Lester and David Price, the aces who were traded Thursday to the Athletics and Tigers, respectively.
C.J. Wilson did not come in a blockbuster deal. He came off the disabled list, a right-ankle sprain sidelining him since July 10. But General Manager Jerry Dipoto equated Wilson's return to a big trade-deadline acquisition, calling him a "key ingredient" to the team's pennant hopes.
"When C.J. is right," Dipoto said, "he's a very legitimate top-half-of-the-rotation guy."
Wilson is not right, though. He is nowhere close, as evidenced by the six runs and six hits he gave up in 11/3 innings of a 10-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Saturday night.
This was not an anomaly, one of those brutal starts the great ones pass off as "one of those games." It was the continuation of a disturbing trend. Wilson has been pounded for 25 earned runs and 37 hits in 18 innings of his last five games, walking 10 and striking out 16.
"The over-riding theme with him is controlling counts, missing spots and not being able to put guys away," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "The command of his pitches is not as crisp as it is when he's getting good results. What the cause is, his release point or delivery, it's hard to tell."
Wilson, who entered Saturday with an 81-58 record and 3.67 earned-run average, retired the first two batters of the first inning before walking Brandon Guyer and giving up a two-run home run to Evan Longoria.
He retired Yunel Escobar on a fly to right field to start the second inning, but James Loney singled to center field, Curt Casali walked and No. 9 batter Logan Forsythe hit a run-scoring single to center that advanced Loney to third base.
Desmond Jennings followed with a bunt -- it wasn't a squeeze play -- that Wilson fielded near the first base line. Wilson had no shot at Loney at home, but he pumped a throw to the plate, a decision that cost him any chance of getting the speedy Jennings at first.
Ben Zobrist reached on another bunt single to load the bases, and Guyer smacked a two-run single to center that gave the Rays a 6-0 lead and knocked Wilson out of the game.
"When Jennings bunted, if I would have just had the presence of mind to concede the run and thrown to first right away instead of looking to home and trying to throw home, then he would have been out, and I probably would have been out of the inning," Wilson said.
"Realistically, I wasn't going to make a play on it. So I should have just got the guy at first. That would have been two outs, and the inning might have been over because Zobrist wouldn't have bunted."
Wilson, who also rehabilitated a tight left hip while he was on the DL, said he felt fine physically. His velocity was good, but his command was not; of his 50 pitches, only 27 were strikes.
Wilson has only one win since June 13, and he fell to 8-7 with a 4.74 ERA this season. With Tyler Skaggs expected to sit out at least a month because of a flexor tendon strain, the Angels need Wilson to pitch like the top-of-the-rotation starter the Angels perceive him to be.
"We need him, we need him to figure it out and get back to making his pitches and being effective," Scioscia said. "We have every confidence he's going to be able to do that."
It also was a rough night for another Angels left-hander, Joe Thatcher, whose first appearance since July 21 ended prematurely.
Thatcher suffered a left-ankle sprain when he caught a spike in the turf while trying to field Guyer's third-inning bunt and was pulled from the game. Scioscia said Thatcher will "most likely" be put on the DL Sunday.
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