Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is doing his usual damage against the Rays, going 4-for-8 with a double, two home runs, four RBIs, a walk and four runs scored in the first two games of this series. He's batting .337 against the Rays since breaking into the majors in 2009, the highest average for any player. His 50 RBIs also rank first, and his 15 homers are tied for second.
Wieters is heating up again as the regular season winds down. Despite the physical strain of catching, Wieters is a career .289/.362/.489 hitter in September/October, his best numbers for any month. He's hit 18 home runs in August and 18 in September/October, also his highest total. His 68 RBIs in August are the most for any month, followed by 62 in September/October.
"You look around at everybody else that can't do it and it tells you how hard it is," said manager Buck Showalter. "And he's got a young child. He's got a great wife, I can tell you that, that lets him sleep now and then. No, he babysits a lot."
Wieters has homered in three of his last four games and four of his last seven, giving him 19 this season to go with a .236 average, 61 RBIs and a .728 OPS.
"Matt, he's a very durable guy," Showalter said. "We had a talk with him a year or so ago about picking his spots about blocking the plate and things. If you do it fundamentally correctly, it's hard to get hurt unless somebody's just headhunting. And there's certain plays you do it on and certain plays you don't do it on. Anytime there's a collision, you always get lower than the guy and you can never get hurt. The problem is when you get the ball from right field and it's close. But there's a lot of things, the foul balls and the foul tips.
"We're lucky to have him. He's arguably one of, if not the most durable catchers ever here. He gets his days off on the day games. He never really asks for them, but he understands that we're looking out for his well-being. But the ability to do things offensively, ... I told you one of the great things I see people do in the big leagues is catchers who can hit. A catcher that can do anything offensively amazes me, with the wear and tear they go through every night. You've got to be a little bit of a different cut. It's very demanding, especially on a night like tonight. It's going to be sticky."
Showalter mentioned last night how Jim Johnson might have been used for two innings, a rarity for the closer, because he was comfortable using only three relievers behind starter Miguel Gonzalez. Johnson hasn't worked more than an inning in any appearance this season.
Don't read anything into it.
"It's just that time of the year," Showalter said. "You protect guys and you keep them from certain things and don't get out of a pattern. Pitchers, and especially bullpen guys, are creatures of habit and you try to take them away from it as little as possible. But this time of year, it's all hands on deck, as much as you can. We had three bullets going in the game last night. Jimmy had three days off, but he had been up once and I was hoping not to use him, but I didn't have a choice.
"If it helps us win the game that night, we'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. We're at that stage. You may not always put your best foot forward some nights to keep somebody out of risk of injury, to have the ability to be consistent over the long haul. There's not a long haul now. Our guys understand there are some different dynamics going on this time of year with 30-something games left."
Showalter said Johnson is an option to close tonight.
Jason Hammel has his own blog. You can check out HammelTime here. Just be sure to come back to me.