Baseball is a tough game – we all know that.
Hitting a major league fastball is particularly difficult. If it weren’t, most of us wouldn’t have stopped playing the game at 13 or 15 or 18.
So what Orioles catcher Matt Wieters did Sunday evening was pretty remarkable.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the Orioles down 1-0, the bases loaded and two outs, Wieters came to the plate to face New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.
Pinch-hitting, Wieters had to sit through three-hours of a game and 97 more minutes of a rain delay. And then he had to grab a bat and face the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball.
Chapman’s first fastball was clocked at 99 mph. Wieters swung through it. The second was also 99, and Wieters fouled it off. The third was 101 mph – that’s not a typo.
And Wieters singled up the middle, scoring two (three on a throwing error) to give the Orioles the lead and the eventual win. And it resulted in Chapman’s first blown save in 10 tries and the Yankees’ first loss in 26 games when leading after seven.
“Same approach as 0-0 really, just trying to be as short (with his swing) as possible,” Wieters said. “If you get the barrel on it, he’ll supply the power to be able to get it through the infield.”
These Orioles, and Wieters in particular, don’t ever seem to get intimidated by being down late. Four of their last five games – against division rivals, the Yankees and Boston Red Sox – resulted in comeback wins.
“I think baseball is big on kind of ‘been there, done that,’” Wieters said. “So that any time you get down, it’s kind of nice to have games to look back on, and sort of draw from that a little bit, and that experience can be used.”
Still, down 0-2 with the bases loaded, two outs and Chapman throwing 101 – the odds of success aren’t good. But Orioles manager Buck Showalter nearly played it off as another win, though he tempered that sentiment a little.
“What I’m saying is it will be forgotten pretty quickly. They should take some pride in the finished product today,” Showalter said. “They won’t dwell on it long.”
Then comes the quote really worth reading.
“We tried real hard here to get to the point where beating certain teams isn’t what you make it out to be,’ Showalter said “You got to beat them because it’s an opportunity and they count. Not because of who they are and how many fans they have in the stands.”