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Wieters powers Orioles' comeback

Wieters powers Orioles' comeback

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BALTIMORE -- Matt Wieters had the best offensive night of his brief career Tuesday, a game in which he displayed some of the raw power that's been missing during his rookie season. Wieters drilled two extra-base hits for just the second time all year and drove in a career-high five runs to lead the Orioles to a 10-5 win over the Rays.

"There's definitely progress," said Wieters, the fifth overall selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. "There are a lot of adjustments to be made up here and you're going to have to keep making them. You can never really be satisfied with where you are. You have to keep working hard and try to keep your swing going good."

Wieters, one of the most eagerly anticipated prospects in recent memory, has adapted well to the Majors, but has simultaneously struggled to live up to his hype. The catcher had just seven extra-base hits in his previous 36 games before Tuesday, but one prominent teammate claims he's on the cusp of something big.

"Certainly, he's the most hyped rookie I've ever been around," said second baseman Brian Roberts. "It's good for the organization, it's good for the team. But I think it was really a lot to put on one guy early on. I think that just wore on him. There's a lot of pressure and it's hard enough up here without having to deal with that. When you're the new guy, you're trying to learn the league [and] you're trying to catch. I think it was a little unfair, the expectations early on and now he's finally started to get comfortable I think and find his groove. He's seen a lot of the pitchers before now and that helps. I think he's getting a lot more comfortable and he's really starting to play well."

The Orioles (59-85) needed every ounce of that breakout performance on Tuesday night, especially after the Rays (73-72) scored four runs in the first inning. Baltimore starter Jason Berken stabilized the game in the middle innings, and the Orioles managed to score the game's final 10 runs to take a series-tying victory.

Wieters, who came into Tuesday with just two home runs since the All-Star break, did something else that he hasn't done much this season: He pulled the ball. The switch-hitter rapped a double off southpaw Jeff Niemann in the fourth inning, and then he stroked a home run off right-hander Chad Bradford late in the game.

The backstop also had a two-run single up the middle in the fifth inning, a hit that gave the Orioles their first lead. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley was more impressed with the extra-base hits, though, and he said that Wieters needed some help in the karma department after banging several balls off the wall.

"The guy's hit some of the longest singles I've ever seen. He finally hit one so they couldn't hold him at first," said Trembley. "I think his first time up, he almost got one. We made a pitching change and I said, 'Hey, the next time you hit one like that, make sure you keep it fair.' You guys watch him in batting practice. He's got no problem pulling it. I think with him, it's recognition. A lot of times he gets caught in between. He really hasn't had enough at-bats to determine if it's fastball, changeup [or] breaking ball. When he gets it, he can do some damage."

And Wieters wasn't alone. Roberts, batting out of the No. 3 slot for the third time this year, set a new franchise record with his 52nd double of the season. Roberts can set the single-season records for doubles by a switch-hitter and doubles by a second baseman. Lance Berkman (55) and Charlie Gehringer (60) hold those records.

Seven of Baltimore's nine starters scored runs on Tuesday night, and all of them had a hit. That group effort backed Berken, who fell behind on a three-run home run by Pat Burrell in the first inning. Berken (5-11) gave up a triple and a one-run single in the third, but then pitched into the seventh and allowed just one more hit.

The right-hander credited pitching coach Rick Kranitz with helping him find a mechanical flaw early in the game. Berken, who lost nine straight decisions at one point, has now won in three of his last five starts. The rookie pitched 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth, and he got out of the sixth inning on a double play.

"For whatever reason, all year, it's been the first inning that's killed me," said Berken, a former sixth-round Draft pick. "I've tried a lot of things to try to fix that, but struggling in the first and being able to pitch deep into the game is something that's good. ... The offense had a great night tonight and was able to pick me up."

The offense did most of that damage against Jeff Niemann, who may be ready to stop facing the Orioles. The southpaw -- who seems to be a contender for the Rookie of the Year Award -- allowed a career-high 11 hits and tied his career worst with six earned runs. Neimann (12-6) also gave up six runs to Baltimore in April.

"There's a guy that didn't give us too many fastballs to hit," said Trembley. "He was changing speeds very well. I think progress should be duly noted, for what the guys did tonight. They could have been very easily ... maybe give some at-bats away and say, 'Hey, we'll get them tomorrow.' But there was a sense of, 'Hey, let's get back in this thing, and the quicker we get back in it, the better shape we're going to be for later in the game.' "

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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