Matt Wieters homers twice as Baltimore Orioles clinch wild card

By Larry Fleisher, The Sports Xchange   |   Oct. 3, 2016 at 2:06 AM
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NEW YORK -- Matt Wieters stood in the corner of the soaked Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse and waited for a radio interview to begin.

While he waited for the commercial break to end, a teammate came over and doused him with beer.

Picked by many to finish in last place, the Baltimore Orioles celebrated. Loud rap music blared, champagne and beer were sprayed while televisions covered by plastic sheets showed the Toronto Blue Jays in the late innings at Fenway Park.

Wieters helped create the celebration by hitting two-run homers from both sides of the plate in consecutive at-bats as Baltimore clinched a spot in the wild-card game with a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon.

"We just proved ourselves right," Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones said. "I don't think we cared about everybody else's thoughts.

"The reality is you got to play, you got to get in between the lines. We came out here, showed up every single day. Sometimes it wasn't pretty, I wasn't pretty, but at the end of the day we got the job done."

Shortly after the wild celebration ended, the Orioles (89-73) learned they would travel to Toronto for Tuesday's wild-card game. The teams finished tied, but the Orioles lost nine of the 19 meetings in the regular-season series.

Wieters capped a strong finish for the Orioles, who won seven of their last nine games after a four-game sweep by the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 19-22 dropped them seven games out of first place in the AL East.

The switch-hitting catcher started the late flourish with a game-tying home run against Arizona in Baltimore's 12-inning win on Sept. 23 and continued it Sunday.

Batting from the left side of the plate, he drove a 3-0 fastball from right-hander Luis Cessa into the second deck in right field with two outs in the fourth. Facing left-hander Tommy Layne with two outs in the sixth, Wieters hit a 1-2 off-speed pitch into the left seats.

"Ever since Buck's been here, he's given a lot of liberty to guys that to be able to see a good pitch 3-0 and give them the green light," Wieters said. "If I can to get a fastball (for a) strike, I was going to take a pretty good swing at it."

It was his seventh career multi-homer game and third this season. It gave the Orioles a major league-leading 253 home runs and made Wieters the first Oriole to homer from both sides of the plate since Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar on July 25, 1996 vs. Cleveland.

"When you get in times like this, you realize how much Matt means to this club and this organization," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.

Besides providing the playoff-clinching home runs, Wieters also caught the clinching start by Kevin Gausman. He turned in another effective outing against the Yankees, allowing two runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings.

"Once I woke up, I was ready to go," Gausman said. "I was locked in, knowing what this game meant."

Gausman allowed a solo home run to Brian McCann and was lifted after allowing a single to Gary Sanchez. Zach Britton gave up an RBI single to Didi Gregorius with two outs in the eighth but pitched a perfect ninth.

Britton secured Baltimore's third postseason spot in five seasons by striking out Brett Gardner. Instead of the raucous on-field celebration, players shook hands and congratulated each other, saving the festivities for the visiting clubhouse.

The Orioles became the second team to celebrate at Yankee Stadium in the last week. On Wednesday, the Red Sox clinched the AL East despite Mark Teixeira hitting a game-ending grand slam in the ninth off Joe Kelly.

Teixeira hit his last home run on the night the Red Sox clinched and ended his 14-year career by going 0-for-3 and robbing Wieters of a hit with a diving stop in the second inning. He tipped his cap to the crowd a few times and accepted hugs from teammates when leaving the field with one out in the top of the seventh.

"I wanted to make sure I got to say goodbye and thank you one last time," Teixeira said. "A win would have been nice, but I couldn't ask for anything more and I got a chance to say goodbye, which was very important."

Teixeira's exit came more than six weeks after Alex Rodriguez's final game. The Yankees had hoped Teixeira and Rodriguez could replicate their production from 2015, but it never materialized and New York finished with 84 wins, equaling its total from 2014.

"There were a lot of changes," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "A lot of guys coming and going, big-time players retiring. Those are the things I'll probably remember."

Cessa allowed four runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

NOTES: Retiring 1B Mark Teixeira was honored by the Yankees in a pregame ceremony. He received a thank card signed by kids from the Harlem RBI program, a framed jersey from managing general partner and a replica base signed by all his teammates. ... Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said he met with Dan Duquette to discuss some preliminary plans about a postseason roster. Showalter also said he has a "pretty good idea" of who would pitch in the next game. ... New York Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka said he was pleased to stay healthy this season and that he is not getting any surgery in the offseason.

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