Orioles match 2011 win total with 8-2 victory over Blue Jays

Wieters throws out three Toronto baserunners in win at Camden Yards

  • Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, top, celebrates with third baseman Manny Machado, right, and left fielder Nate McLouth after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, top, celebrates with third baseman… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
August 25, 2012|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

A night after designated hitter Chris Davis became the 19th Oriole in franchise history to hit three homers in a game, catcher Matt Wieters accomplished something a lot less explosive but even more rare on Saturday.

In the Orioles' 8-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, which guaranteed them another series victory, Wieters turned in an impressive defensive hat trick: He threw out three different Blue Jays trying to steal.

It's happened just 14 times in Orioles' history — with the last one coming on August 10, 1988 when Mickey Tettleton caught three Kansas City Royals. Current MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey holds the franchise record for runners caught stealing in one game in 1977 with four.

“Saved me a ton of pitches, knowing that he has an arm like that back there for you,” said Orioles rookie Steve Johnson, who was aided by Wieters' display during a strong, six-inning outing. “If you give him time, if you're quick to the plate, he's going to do his job. Those three runners, it could have been a whole different ballgame if he doesn't do that. It's great having him back there.”

Just another ho-hum night at Camden Yards, where bits of club history are routinely made these days. And this year it's actually of the positive variety.

With Saturday's victory before an announced crowd of 25,082, the Orioles (69-57) have matched their win total for all of last season with 36 games to play. The 69 wins are the club's most since it totaled 70 in 2006.

So does that mean something special to a team that has suffered through so much losing?

“Not at this point. I think we are all playing for something a little bit more,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was the offensive hero with three of the club's 13 hits, including a two-run homer and a double. “Right now, I don't think (69 wins) means much to us at all, really. It's nice to win (that many), but we definitely have a bigger picture in mind.”

That playoff picture remains in focus. The Orioles are now just four games behind the first-place New York Yankees in the American League East and a half-game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for second place. The Orioles are tied with the Oakland A's for the crucial second Wild Card spot, just behind the wild-card-leading Rays.

“We're in a good position. We're still in the wild-card hunt,” said Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds. “It's going to be tight coming down the stretch. If we stay focused on the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.”

On Saturday, Wieters' provided the shutdown defense and Johnson (2-0) settled down for a quality start after serving up a two-run homer in the first inning to Edwin Encarnacion, who is tied for second in the AL with 34. The first inning could have been worse, but Wieters threw out the first of his three victims, Toronto center fielder Mike McCoy, for the second out.

Johnson,a St. Paul's graduate making just his second big-league start since Aug. 8, settled down after allowing the homer. Exhibiting excellent control of a high-80s fastball, Johnson retired 14 of the final 17 batters he faced.

“I think, in fairness to him, (he was) a little rusty from some inactivity early, but he settled in nicely,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “He was up in that first inning and he made a good adjustment and attacked the hitters. We're proud of him. He wasn't in a good place early and he made the adjustment.”

Johnson lasted six innings, giving up four hits and two walks while striking out seven. It's his second quality start in two opportunities; he's now struck out 23 batters in 17 innings.

“I couldn't get a feel for my delivery in the first inning. I was just able to lock in, and throw better pitches,” he said. “I still got away with a couple, but I was able to make pitches when I needed to.”

Two of the three baserunners who got on after the first against Johnson were then wiped out by Wieters. In the third it was Rajai Davis, who is second in the league with 39 stolen bases; in the fifth, veteran Omar Vizquel didn't even get halfway toward second on a botched hit-and-run before turning around and getting tagged out in a rundown.

“You'll take them all, but I think Davis, that might be the first time I've actually caught him stealing,” Wieters said. “So that one felt pretty good.”

Wieters has now thrown out 27 of 73 would-be basestealers – a 37percent caught stealing rate that matches his career high from last season when he won his first Gold Glove. Coming into Saturday, the league average was 26 percent.

“I would've thought it would've been more, I didn't know 37 [percent] was the number,” Hardy said. “It seems like when people run, he throws them out.”

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