The Baltimore Orioles inched closer in the playoff race as they avoided a sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays with a 4-2 victory Wednesday Night.
With runners on the corners with two outs and a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth, Tommy Hunter was on the mound trying to secure the victory, but Matt Wieters took it into his own hands. Kelly Johnson attempted to steal second base to get the tying run in scoring position, but Wieters performed one of the fastest catch and throws by a catcher in quite some time and JJ Hardy made one heck of a pick and tag to nail Johnson at second and take the 4-2 win. Orioles Manager Buck Showalter commented on Wieters play at the end of the game,
"Did Wieters get the save?" Showalter asked. "1.75. That's sick. You can't do that. He's had a few of those. How about the tag by Hardy? I've got to tell you, he's the best tagger I've ever seen. He does it text book where he starts in front and goes to the straddle and lets the ball travel. He catches the ball moving toward the runner. Most people catch it moving up. It's impossible. For me. Some of you all might be able to do that. "
Hunter, who picked up his fourth save of the season, encountered quite a pickle when he entered in the ninth as there were runners on first and second with no outs and a two run lead. Tommy induced a shallow flyball to center for the first out and a come backer to the mound that he was able to get the out at second, which set up the game ending play.
With an obvious save situation in the ninth, Jim Johnson did not even warm up, Showalter used a committee in the ninth as Darren O'Day began the inning after pitching the eighth and allowed a leadoff single. Brian Matusz then came into the game and walked the only batter he faced before Hunter was brought in.
Johnson may not have been available as he was warmed up in the bullpen the last two or three days, and pitched last night, but when Showalter was asked if we should read into the fact that Johnson didn't pitch,
"Oh, sure, you can read it," Showalter said. "We've got 30-something games. We're going to put our best foot forward every night. Jimmy's our best option, one of them. I'm glad we've got more than one good option. We've got a lot of good options and we'll continue to make use of them."
Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen (7-6) had a very quality start for the Birds as he went seven strong innings, while allowing two runs on six hits, three walks, and three strikeouts on just 93 pitches, 58 of which were for strikes.
Baltimore's offense did something they had not done over the past few games and that was take advantage of a bases loaded, no outs situation. In the bottom of the first inning, the Birds did exactly what should be done when you load the bases with no outs, they scored two runs. The downside? They did it without recording a hit as Adam Jones drove in the first run with a RBI fielder's choice, and after a double steal from Chris Davis and Jones, Wieters hit a sac fly to drive in Davis and give Baltimore an early 2-0 lead.
Jones added a 451 foot bomb to dead centerfield in the bottom of the third inning for his 26th of the season and Davis added a solo Eutaw Street bomb in the fifth for his MLB leading 46th homer of the season. Davis's home run tied Jim Gentile for the third most home runs in a single season for the Orioles and now trails just Frank Robinson (49) and Brady Anderson (50) for the franchise record.
The Orioles will now enjoy an off day today before starting a HUGE three game series with the visting Oakland A's, who currently hold a three game lead over the Birds in the wildcard race.
Be sure to check back later today for our latest edition of Throwback Thursday!
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