Fans attending Wednesday nights Quakes game to get a glimpse of recently signed Dodger reliever Brian Wilson in his first rehab assignment expecting to see some of his silly antics or bizarre behavior undoubtedly left the Epicenter disappointed.
When the 31-year-old former Giants closer emerged from the Quakes clubhouse to begin his pre-game warm-up, he was greeted by several hundred excited fans hoping for an autograph or photo only to be completely snubbed by Wilson. “Do you believe the arrogance of the guy?” one upset fan said out loud to no one in particular.
And though it was hard to dismiss Wilson’s almost Zack Greinke-like actions towards fans (i.e. – completely ignoring them and not even looking at them), it became very obvious very quickly when the game started what was going on.
Brian Wilson was on a mission and was extremely focused. What fans perceived as being cold or snobbish (or arrogant in that one fan’s eyes) was actually Brian Wilson in the zone realizing that he must, absolutely must perform well if he is to have any chance of making it back to the big leagues. In other words, Brian Wilson was all business and there was no room for silliness or even interaction with fans. Brian Wilson had a job to do – period.
After his eight warm-up tosses, it was showtime and all eyes were upon him. Working from a stretch, Wilson did his trademark deep bend at the waist, came set and fired off a 93 MPH fastball to Lake Elsinore Storm center fielder Travis Jankowski which Jankowski promptly hit to the right of Quakes second baseman Darnell Sweeney. Sweeney made an outstanding reaching grab on the ball and threw Jankowski out by several steps.
One pitch, one out.
The second Storm batter, right fielder Kyle Gaedele, wouldn’t be as easy, forcing Wilson to fall behind in the count 3-1. But the bearded wonder threw two absolutely filthy sliders that hit 89 and 87 respectively and Gaedele struck out swinging.
Seven pitches, two outs.
The third Storm batter, shortstop Jace Peterson, tried the first-pitch swinging approach that Jankowski had tried and he too laced a hard grounder to Sweeney, who again made a great reaching grab to prevent a hit and threw Peterson out also by several steps.
And with that Brian Wilson’s first professional appearance since April 2012 was over – in eight pitches.
Wilson returned to the Quakes dugout where he received high-fives and handshakes from his teammates and coaches, along with several members of the Dodgers training staff. It was very apparent that Wilson was both pleased and relieved with his brief outing and for the first time in a long time, he could actually relax.
After speaking briefly with reporters and icing down his throwing arm, Wilson changed into his street clothes and exited the Quakes clubhouse where an absolute hoard of fans were waiting, hoping for an autograph or photo with the newest Dodger. Unlike before the game, Wilson spent a good fifteen minutes signing for fans, and while not everyone got an autograph, most did; after which Wilson walked off into the darkness to his waiting car.
But there was still a game going on, and a very good one at that.
The Quakes and Storm played to a 1-1 tie heading into the 6th inning in which Quakes first baseman Chris Jacobs hit a Hanley Ramirez-like opposite field home run over the right field wall to give the Quakes a 2-1 lead. But in the top of the 8th and on his very first pitch in relief of Edwin Carl (who had relieved Freddie Cabrera, who had relieved Wilson), Daniel Coulombe gave up a two-run home run to Peterson to return the lead to the Storm.
But in the bottom of the 8th, newly arrived Quakes shortstop Corey Seager hit a one out single to center. This was followed by a double off the glove of Storm second baseman B.J. Guinn by Jacobs moving Seager to third and bringing catcher Chris O’Brien to the plate. O’Brien ripped a single to right scoring Seager and moving Jacobs and the go ahead run to third base still with only one out. Third baseman Pedro Guerrero then hit a fly ball to right allowing Jacobs to tag up and score on the sacrifice to give the Quakes a 4-3 lead. The inning ended when Quakes center fielder Casio Grider popped out to first.
Recent Quakes arrival Craig Stem came on to close out the game in a 1-2-3 9th for his first save of the year and giving Coulombe the vulture win. Coulombe is now 3-2 on the season with a 4.72 ERA.