Wieters-Huff connection downs Mets
Catcher's first blast, first baseman's go-ahead shot lead O's
BALTIMORE -- Mark down the date. Matt Wieters met some major milestones on Wednesday, when he came through with his first big league home run, RBI and curtain call. Wieters pounded a two-run blast in the second inning, and Aubrey Huff hammered another two-run shot in the seventh to lead the Orioles to a 6-4 win over the Mets.
And though it's just one swing, the first home run could have a settling effect for Wieters, who has been billed as the biggest impact prospect to reach the Orioles in the past two decades. The switch-hitting catcher has experienced a steep learning curve in the Majors after he steadily dominated the competition in the Minor Leagues.
"I think every time he plays, he's learning and growing and getting better," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, who has tried to ease the rookie's transition. "There's so much probably going on so fast for him right now, but I'm sure later on tonight or tomorrow, he'll be able to enjoy some of the things that happened to him."
Wieters, who had gone 13 games without driving in a run, came to the plate in a tie game in the second inning. The former first-round draftee chose a pitch he could drive, going opposite field off Mets starter Tim Redding to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead. And after he arrived in the dugout, his teammates made him answer the crowd with a curtain call.
Five innings later, Huff made sure the moment wouldn't come in a loss. Baltimore's cleanup hitter connected off reliever Pedro Feliciano for his ninth home run of the year and his first since May 26. More importantly, Huff's shot broke a 4-4 tie, then Jim Johnson and George Sherrill closed down the eighth and ninth to preserve the lead.
"I think that might have been my first extra-base hit in a while," said Huff. "I've been staying afloat, getting my 1-for-4's every day [and] getting two hits every now and then. But it definitely feels good to get the big hits. They pay me to hit homers and drive in runs. Going 1-for-4 every day with a single wasn't going to cut the mustard."
Nick Markakis also played a big role in the victory, netting his second four-hit game of the year. Markakis sprayed four singles and came around to score two runs. The right fielder even stole a base in the fifth inning, but the Orioles (28-37) gave up a lead in the sixth and didn't really seize control until Huff's game-changing homer.
"This is a good one to enjoy for everybody," said Trembley. "You've got to feel real good about some guys who stepped up tonight and really turned the corner -- not only for themselves but for the ballclub."
Baltimore starter Koji Uehara wound up with a tough-luck no-decision and hasn't earned a victory in more than two months. The right-hander ran up a high pitch count on Wednesday, but he managed to wriggle out of trouble when he needed it most. Uehara stranded two runners in the fourth and wound up leaving with a two-run lead.
Trembley protected him, choosing to get Uehara out of the game with a lead. The veteran has been working his way back from a balky left hamstring that has troubled him since Spring Training, and Trembley said it was important to make sure that Uehara left his outing with a positive feeling about his performance.
"I think it's a credit to him that he'd be able to come back after missing two weeks and be able to pitch like he did tonight versus how he pitched the first time," he said. "You could really see a difference tonight in how he pitched. He was more like Koji. He's not back yet to where he's going to be. There's still some rust coming off."
The Mets (33-30) took advantage of Uehara's departure and tied the game in the next half-inning. Reliever Brian Bass got a quick out and surrendered a home run to Gary Sheffield in the sixth. Bass wound up leaving with the bases loaded, and Mark Hendrickson walked in the tying run before he escaped the inning on a double play.
Still, despite the late heroics, the game was easily dissolvable to Wieters and his first curtain call. Wieters, who had hit five home runs for Triple-A Norfolk before his promotion, has constantly amused his teammates with his media appeal. And Wednesday, after the game, they treated him to a celebratory shaving-cream pie in the face.
That dash is generally reserved for game-winning hits, but the Orioles made an exception. Wieters has finally arrived as a run producer, and a first-row perch in left field will forever mark the spot of his first home run.
"I felt like I hit it well, but I didn't know how the ball was carrying tonight," said Wieters. "I was just sort of watching it, and the left fielder looked like he might have a bead on it, so I had to watch it all the way."
"I think everybody came in here and expected so much out of the poor kid," added Huff. "I'm sure it's been a grind for him as far as all the hype that's been going on. Get that one out of the way, go out there, relax and play baseball now."
Huff went into Wednesday's game hitting just .200 against left-handed pitchers, and he said that Feliciano had looked like he was throwing 107 mph when he faced him on Tuesday night. This time, Huff went into his crucial at-bat with a plan and executed it perfectly, winding up with a home run onto the flag court beyond right field.
"It wasn't comfortable at all. He's a very tough pitcher," said Huff of Feliciano. "I went up there knowing that he threw me a lot of sliders the night before. I just went up there sitting on it. He threw me two fastballs, really good ones to hit, and I just took them. He hung a slider for me and I was able to get him."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.