ANAHEIM -- C.J. Wilson's bad innings are like traffic on the 405 -- you know it's coming, you're just not sure when or how bad it'll be. Sometimes -- like May 7 in Houston, May 27 in Los Angeles or this past Saturday in Boston -- that one inning will spell his demise.
And then there are nights like Friday, when he bounces back brilliantly.
"I know it sounds really cheesy," Wilson said, "but you can't undo anything -- you have to let it go, you have to forgive yourself."
By the time Wilson finished a two-run fourth, he had accumulated 78 pitches and coughed up the lead. But by the time he finished his start, he had thrown seven innings of two-run ball, setting himself up to be the winning pitcher in a 5-2 victory that was among the Angels' best-executed wins of the season.
The Angels have won back-to-back games, but they have a long, long way to go to get back in the race. They're still nine games below .500 -- while coming off a 2-4 road trip and starting a season-long 10-game homestand -- and they have to win 18 of their next 26 games just to have a winning record by the All-Star break.
Asked what it's going to take to get back in the race, Wilson's response was uncharacteristically concise: "Games like tonight."
The Angels (29-38) got a solid outing from their starter, played air-tight defense, held a lead -- thanks in large part to Kevin Jepsen escaping a tough jam in the eighth -- and tacked on late, getting a two-out RBI single in each of their last three innings.
"This was a complete game for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, his team 26-12 in its last 38 home games against the Yankees. "We did a lot of things on the offensive end, we pressured them every inning, and on the defensive end, outfield range showed up and the double plays were big."
Facing a shorthanded Yankees lineup, Wilson put four straight batters on to surrender the lead in the fourth -- giving up back-to-back base hits to Robinson Cano and ex-teammate Vernon Wells, then a walk to Thomas Neal and a two-run single to David Adams -- but cruised through the next three frames, moving to 5-5 with a 3.90 ERA in 14 starts.
It all started with the third out that has eluded Wilson in the innings that have snowballed -- a fourth-inning fielder's choice groundout to No. 9 hitter Austin Romine. From there, he retired eight of his next 10 batters, the last three on strikeouts, and wound up with the win in a 113-pitch outing.
"I knew I was going to be able to get out of that inning, it was just a matter of which guy was going to hit the ball on the ground and which guy was going to pop it up," Wilson said. "They're not at full strength right now, so we have to take advantage of that. That's a big factor, as well, when you're pitching and you know you don't have somebody coming up that's maybe going to get you deep."
Friday's Yankees lineup was hardly familiar. They had only four regulars -- Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano and Wells, if you want to count him -- as they continue to fight through an injury-riddled season with the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson all on the shelf.
Like the Angels, the Yankees have caught some tough breaks.
Unlike their Friday opponent, they've found a way to win in spite of it, still seven games above .500 despite dropping four straight.
For the Angels to reach their level, they'll need more games like these. Five players, including Albert Pujols, had at least two hits; Chris Iannetta (sixth inning), Mark Trumbo (seventh) and Mike Trout (eighth) each came up with big two-out hits late; and Jepsen retired the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters with two on and none out to preserve a two-run lead in the eighth.
"We're pretty happy to win against anybody," Wilson said. "We've lost to some teams that we felt like we should beat. The Yankees have a much better record than us; we have to play our brand of baseball, and tonight we did that. We had a sacrifice, we had a stolen base, we had some great defense and good enough pitching. It was more like Angels baseball, the way we drew it up in Spring Training."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.