ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Apparently, anyone on this team is free to run on the basepaths if he spots an opportunity. And that includes the catcher who doesn’t include “speed” on his list of tools.
Matt Wieters stole two bases tonight, giving him three on the season and four in his major league career. The last Orioles catcher to steal two in the same game was Johnny Oates on June 10, 1972 at Texas.
“Buck gives all of us the green light pretty much, that if we feel like we can get it, go ahead and get it,” Wieters said. “I had a couple times where I thought I could get there, so I went.”
Wieters was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from second base on Wilson Betemit’s single in the third inning. Was he gassed?
“No, I’m just not that fast,” he said, grinning. “Baseball players may not be the best athletes in the world, but we can run 270 feet and still be OK.”
Did teammates give Wieters a hard time, or did he do the jabbing after swiping two bags?
“A little bit of both,” he said. “That’s what it’s always going to be in baseball. A hard time and then congratulations at the same time.”
Manager Buck Showalter said the first one was delayed steal, the second was taking advantage of Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson being slow to the plate with slow runners on base.
“He’s playing it up pretty good right now,” Showalter said. “He’s got some people trailing him right now. He’s telling them to read the box score tomorrow, that there will be two next to his name. Pretty proud of him. He said it messed him up because he had to try to score on that single. If he stayed, he wouldn’t have had that problem.”
Wieters also went against the norm by collecting a hit with a runner in scoring position. His RBI single in the first inning gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead, and they finished the game 5-for-9 with RISP.
“We got another one where we were thrown out at the plate,” Showalter said. “The two-out RBIs are always a momentum (builder) for you and a morale breaker on the other side, because they’re so close to getting out of the inning. Guys are pressing so hard trying to get it done. It will just happen sometimes. They’re grinding every day. I’ve been asked about it every day and I’m probably giving the same answer, but if there was a different care in there going on, I’d feel a lot more negative about it.”
Said Wieters: “It’s nice to get a lead early anytime, especially when you’re going up against this staff and in this park. It’s a good staff that you want to try to get on top of early, especially with (Wei-Yin) Chen throwing the ball the way he was tonight. We thought, get a good lead and let him roll.”
Chen was dealing again tonight. He’s 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in his last five starts, with 20 hits allowed and 31 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings.
He’s not just the staff ace by default. He’s earned the title.
“I feel good today, especially (the way) Wieters put the fingers down and he gave me a really good target,” Chen said through his interpreter. “I just hit the target. It was a good game tonight.
“I feel really, really good pitching in the major leagues right now. Not only command, but also the control of all of my pitches.”
Chen was disappointed that he didn’t get through the sixth inning in his last start, so completing seven tonight was important to him.
“I got too many strikeouts in my last outing,” he said, “so I lowered my pitch count to get out really quick today and that’s the most important thing to do.”
Nate McLouth went 2-for-4 in his Orioles debut.
“It was nice to start on a positive note. It was a good way to get things started,” he said.
“It’s nice to get off to a good start, no matter where you are. But especially coming to a good team, to start off on a positive note is good for the team and good for myself, too.
“I got myself in a good rhythm (at Norfolk) and really got feeling good at the plate. Really didn’t feel any different tonight. I felt the same and was able to carry that into my swings.”