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Wieters misses Sunday, but he doesn't miss Monday

After sitting out game with sore back, Orioles catcher returns to slug walk-off homer

BALTIMORE -- Matt Wieters was scheduled to play first base in Sunday's series finale against the Rays, but was scratched from the lineup with a sore back. In hindsight, it looks like a great decision.

On Monday, Wieters delivered a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th off of Luis Avilan to give the Orioles a 2-1 victory over the Braves in the series opener at Camden Yards.

"We could have pushed the envelope yesterday, but then he may not have been able to do what he did tonight," manager Buck Showalter said.

It was Wieters' fourth career walk-off homer and his first since May 1, 2014, in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Pittsburgh. But Wieters game-winning knock was one of two big hits the Orioles catcher produced in the club's first game back in Baltimore since the All-Star break.

Video: Must C Clutch: Wieters blasts walk-off homer

The other came in the ninth with the Orioles losing, 1-0. Adam Jones led off the inning with an infield single, and Wieters followed that up with a single up the middle, advancing Jones to third.

The single proved to be important as J.J. Hardy flied a ball to left field that was deep enough to score Jones and tie the game at 1, forcing extra innings. Showalter said he thought about pinch-running for Wieters following the Hardy sacrifice fly, but it was yet another good decision on Showalter's part.

In his next at-bat, Wieters blasted the second pitch he saw from Avilan into the center-field stands, and added a nice bat flip to boot. He raced around the bases and rolled his helmet into the mob that awaited him at home plate.

"Right now, being where we are, cherishing a win is big, to be able to keep piling up wins, and keep piling up wins because that's what we need to do," Wieters said.

It's been a well-documented long road back to the lineup for Wieters, who missed most of last season and nearly half of 2015 after Tommy John surgery. He's still dealing with the effects and he still doesn't catch back-to-back games in order to work back his arm strength.

But moments like Monday's make it all worth it.

"It won't ever get old," Wieters said of his walk-off homer. "It's a great feeling, to put a good swing on the ball at a time when you need it. It's a good feeling. You'll never get tired of it."

Connor Smolensky is an associate reporter for
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