The Tampa Bay Rays had five players in the infield as Matt Wieters stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning.
What’s the best way to beat a five-man infield? Deposit the ball into the right field seats.
Wieters flipped his bat and enjoyed the moment, his walk-off grand slam giving the Orioles a dramatic 10-6 win over the Rays.
It was a rare on-field display of emotion from Wieters, who’s batting .342 with 13 HRs lifetime against Tampa Bay.
“I get to see it every day,” said manager Buck Showalter. “It’s just the very few times he can be himself. You don’t do the things he does without having emotion about the game. It’s just the world we live in. It’s usually not conducive to wear it on your sleeve. He’s real comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t have to show somebody how good he is.
“Last thing I’ve ever tried to do here, especially with this group, is surpress a personality. I want them to be themselves and let it rip. Thank God we’re not all alike.”
“Text book way to win a game is the bunt Manny put down,” Showalter said. “I think about that as development. All the people in the farm system who don’t let him not be good at that. Everybody thinks he’s got a chance to be a run producer. That’s something that, it’s not their fault, it’s our fault if they don’t come up here with that. That’s what I take out of it.”
Adam Jones followed with a drive off the right field wall, but Markakis held at third and Jones had to scamper back to first after reaching second and assuming the game was over. Third base coach Bobby Dickerson held Markakis.
“I’ll tell you what you can’t have happen. You cannot have that ball caught and not advance to third,” Showalter said. “With nobody out, Nicky’s doing exactly what he should be doing. (Ben Zobrist) came close to making that play. What if (Markakis) is halfway, three-fourths down the line? If he catches that ball and you’re still sitting there with a man on second. They both did the right thing, him and Bobby. What happens a lot of times is you get caught up in the emotion of the moment and do something you shouldn’t do.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon argued that Jones didn’t touch second on his way back to first. A controversial play?
“I didn’t see it as controversial at all,” Showalter said. “Adam made a good baserunning play. I don’t think he even got to the bag, but I would have appealed it too, looking for an out somewhere.”
Earlier today, Showalter met with a few of his slumping players. Two of them, Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce, homered tonight.
“Stevie, it’s been tough on him because he had a great spring,” Showalter said. “You don’t want to see anybody go through negative thoughts. I talked a little bit with Nolan today and a couple other guys, just trying to keep that positive energy. When you all ask me if somebody’s pressing or if there’s pressure on them, of course there is. It’s just the nature of the beast. And trying to decide whether to bunt or hit-and-run with Manny, it’s all the same. But for Stevie, it’s a career. But there’s no pressure, like I told him. He’s going to be in the big leagues. He’s a big league hitter.
“He just missed hitting one the first time up on a changeup. He had another big swing later. I thought Nolan had some good at-bats tonight.”
Miguel Gonzalez served up two home runs in the first inning, cruised later and came out of the game after a Jose Molina home run with two outs in the sixth and back-to-back singles.
“His problem was Tampa Bay,” Showalter said. “We had some trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark, especially in that area where they were hitting it. But I hope everybody kind of sees what he did tonight. He gave us a chance to win instead of imploding and having a real challenging night out of our bullpen. He found a way to get through it and found a way to keep us in the game. Stayed away from the big inning.
“I know he was frustrated. He was working on an extra day, and I think some of these guys on the flip side are looking forward to pitching every fifth day and getting on a set routine for these 20 days we’re playing in a row.”
The Orioles took two of three from the Rays and now prepare for a rare visit from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who haven’t been in Baltimore since 2002. Before that series, you had to go back to the 1966 World Series.
“It was a good game for us,” Showalter said. “To beat them in the series at home, and we knew it was going to be a really tough challenge with (David) Price out there. It was a good win. To be down 3-0 there with Price and being able to figure out a way. There was a lot of frustration funneled in the right direction after we got down.
“I’d like for them to get a good night’s sleep and feel good about themselves, and we’ve got a challenge getting ready for the Dodgers.”