ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Manager Buck Showalter had to change his lineup today with Luke Scott unable to play because of a strained groin muscle. One of the adjustments raised Matt Wieters from eighth to fifth in the order.
Wieters was hitting .167 with no homers or RBIs after the first two games of this series, but Showalter played a hunch.
Wieters responded with a bloop single into left field with two outs in the first inning that scored Brian Roberts and gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
I’ll remind you of Showalter’s response to a pre-game question about Wieters batting fifth today:
“As opposed to who kind of thing. I think when you think about presence and guys that present a real dilemma for the other team, it’s more about at this point where we are, who is going to protect Vlad (Guerrero) the most, and kind of the way Tampa would look at it. I think in (Felix) Pie’s first start, it would be a little tough to push him there right now. We think Matt’s our best option there.”
Rays starter Wade Davis got ahead, 1-2, before Wieters went to the opposite field. The ball dropped near the line in front of left fielder Sam Fuld, who earlier made a sensational catch in foul territory to retire Nick Markakis.
Fuld tripped over the bullpen mound, reached up and caught the ball on his way down.
Now Markakis knows what it feels like to be on the other end of a web gem, though nobody will top last night’s catch, especially under those circumstances.
I should mention that Roberts tagged and took second after Fuld’s catch, which put him in scoring position. I’ll also point out that Pie, batting eighth, singled with one out in the second inning.
Zach Britton began his major league debut by retiring the first two batters before Ben Zobrist, victimized by Markakis last night, doubled into left-center field. Britton got a called third strike on Elliot Johnson, freezing him with a 92 mph fastball, before Zobrist batted.
Manny Ramirez fouled off the next pitch and lined a 93 mph fastball to shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Britton threw 18 pitches, 11 for strikes.
Update: Britton has thrown first-pitch strikes to five of the seven batters he’s faced. Kelly Shoppach opened the second by lining to third baseman Mark Reynolds, and Britton struck out Sean Rodriguez and Dan Johnson. Johnson was caught looking at an 86 mph slider.