Dodgers relief pitcher Brian Wilson made his return to San Francisco on Tuesday night, his first game there since April 2012. But the ex-Giants closer treated the outing like any other outing of late, and pitched another scoreless inning.
Wilson was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers from the partisan crowd, but the boos seemed to outweigh the cheers.
"I wasn’t expecting anything. I never expect anything. You’re not going to get a rise out of me. It’s all good. I pitch the eighth inning and do my job. That’s what I did here," Wilson said, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I was expecting better here."
In the eighth inning on Tuesday, protecting a 2-1 lead, Wilson struck out Gregor Blanco looking, got Angel Pagan to pop out to left field, then froze Juan Perez with a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.
Naturally there was some concern with Wilson coming off Tommy John surgery when the Dodgers signed him on July 30. So far, the results have been fantastic. Wilson has allowed one run in 16 appearances, and has struck out 12 of his 44 batters faced (27.3%) compared to just three walks.
Wilson has even stranded 10 of his 11 inherited runners.
Wilson is averaging 92.9 mph on his fastball, per FanGraphs, which isn't quite the 95-96 mph he was averaging in 2008-2010 but is faster than he showed during pre-signing workouts. In the last two weeks Wilson has averaged 94.0 mph.
Both Mike Petriello at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness and Chad Moriyama wrote about the uptick in velocity for Wilson over the last few weeks, and both noted his increased use and control of the cutter. From Moriyama:
About that velocity downturn though, it’s not exactly a bad thing, as he’s sort of become an oddball version of Kenley Jansen, throwing his 87-89 mph cutter a whopping 77.0% of the time. Perhaps most importantly, though, he’s back to locating it for strikes.
The question when he was signed was whether or not Wilson would find his way onto the Dodgers playoff roster. But that is no longer in doubt, as Wilson is an absolute lock to pitch for the Dodgers in October. Now the question is just when will he pitch?
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com thought Tuesday night marked a change for manager Don Mattingly regarding Wilson:
By his managing, Mattingly virtually confirmed that Wilson has supplanted Ronald Belisario as the primary eighth-inning setup man. Mattingly said sentiment had nothing to do with using Wilson in his first game back at AT&T Park.
"I was trying to get three outs," said Mattingly. "That's kind of the spot for him. No dramatics there -- just three outs."
Two of Wilson's last three outings have protected a one-inning lead in the eighth inning. The first of those, on Thursday in Phoenix, came after Ronald Belisario pitched - badly - in each of the previous two days. But whether Wilson is the new eighth inning setup man or not, at the very least he gives the Dodgers yet another viable option in relief in the playoffs. And having options is a good thing.