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September 14, 2011

Wieters one shy of 20 homers after his bomb off Howell

With the score tied at 2 and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters landed an uppercut on the Tampa Bay Rays, who are chasing the Boston Red Sox in the American League wild-card race. When Rays left-hander J.P. Howell left a changeup high in the strike zone, Wieters cranked a go-head home run into the left field bleachers for a 4-2 lead. The score held up.

Before Tuesday’s game at Camden Yards, Orioles manager Buck Showalter spoke at length about Wieters and his success against left-handers this season. In spring training, the Orioles force-fed Wieters at-bats against lefties, whether it was in exhibition games or simulated game situations. And entering Tuesday’s game, Wieters had been batting .320 with eight homers and 20 RBIs as a right-handed hitter against left-handers. He added to those last two totals with his bomb off Howell.

It was the second straight night Wieters hit a home run. He has five homers in his past 12 games, and he is one shy of 20 on the season. However, he said he hasn’t changed a thing.

“I wish I could figure out what that difference was, but no,” Wieters said after exiting the film room. “It’s just go out there and keep playing and be able to get some pitches to hit hard.”

And boy did he ever hit that one hard. It traveled 396 feet to left field, outdoing Evan Longoria’s sixth-inning shot off Alfredo Simon by 4 feet. But Wieters said at least some of the credit should go to Adam Jones. The center fielder was held out of the starting lineup for the fourth game in a row but entered the game as a pinch-runner after Vladimir Guerrero’s single off Howell. Jones induced a few throws to first base before Howell left the 1-1 pitch hanging up in the strike zone.

“Matty has a chance to hit 20 home runs,” said Showalter, who also noted what Jones did at first base. “It seems like every one of them has been a big home run. You think about it, I don't care if you're 25 or 45, if you're catching -- he's going to catch over 140 games -- that's remarkable. He's just been a rock. I'm really proud of him. He's gotten better every year he's been here. It's pretty easy to look prophetic when you're talking about someone with the upbringing of Matt Wieters.”

The home run was big for the Red Sox, too, who expanded their lead to four games with a win over the Toronto Blue Jays and the Rays’ loss to the Orioles. Asked by reporters how it felt to start the 10-count for Tampa Bay, Wieters said he takes little pleasure in playing the spoiler role.

“We’re just trying to play as well as we can against teams that are going to the playoffs,” said the All-Star, who had an ice pack onto his right shoulder after another game behind the plate. “They can fight it out and go for the playoffs. We’re just going to try and get better and keep working.”

Posted by Matt Vensel at 6:00 AM | | Comments (7)


Is it safe to say that Wieters is a 2nd half player? Seems like every year he really heats up the last 2 months.

Why no love for Jake Fox ?

I must be mistaken this cannot be the wieters I read all these crybabies and self proclaimed experts were saying is a complete bust. They have spelled gloom and doom about hardy,reynolds,wieters, markakis and even jones. Some dumb criers have even said the orioles don't have a player who could start on other teams. When our young pitchers reach the experience of jones and wieters look then. There is vast improvement and it will continue whether Andy or someone else is in charge. As palmer flanagan and others always pointed out it usually takes an average of X number of professional innings for most young pitchers to reach their potential. Most of ours are not in that bracket yet.

I'll take the wins and love to see this team playing spoiler...but I'd much rather see them decide the playoff race FOR Tampa (and against Boston), as opposed to the other way around.

A .260 average, 20 homers and fantastic defense from a 25-year-old catcher is absolutely fine by me.

Here's hoping that Wieters builds on the success of this season and progresses some more in 2012. If young players like Wieters and Jones and young pitchers like Britton, Arrieta and Matusz don't succeed at this level, there's no chance for a respectable showing in the AL East, let alone a competitive showing.

Weiters has almost the same number of HRs right handed as he does left handed (9 vs 10), but has 3 times as many ABs left handed. His batting average is also 100 points lower left handed and slugging is 300 points lower. Perhaps he should think about moving away from switch hitting.

The "score held up" because Kevin Gregg didn't set foot on the mound. So refreshing not to see that big stiff coming on in the 9th.

Again--I beg you--some blog posts about Frederick...they're in the championship series now. They deserve some coverage.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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