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Matt Wieters’ slam lifts Nationals over Cubs; Will it spark the Nats’ veteran backstop going forward?

The Nationals could really use some increased production from their catchers. Will Matt Wieters’ big weekend spark something in the veteran backstop?

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Wieters’ go-ahead grand slam against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon was the third of his career, and his first grand slam since 2013 was also his first home run in 22 games and 88 plate appearances, going back to June 28th, when the Nationals met the Cubs in Washington, D.C.

Wieters was 0 for 3 on the day in Wrigley Field going into his eighth inning at bat against Cubs’ reliever Carl Edwards, Jr., but he jumped on a first-pitch curve and hit it out to center to put the Nationals up 8-4 after a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch tied the game up at 4-4.

“I just wanted something I could get up,” Wieters told MASN’s Dan Kolko after the 9-4 win over the Cubs in the series finale, “and I read the curveball out of his hand early, and I knew that was a pitch I could get elevated and get in the air, I just happened to hit it good enough to go out.”

Wieters’ blast was his third hit in five at bats in Chicago, after he snapped an 0 for 13 stretch at the plate with the first of his two hits before he got ejected from the Nats’ loss to the Cubs on Saturday afternoon.

Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker was asked after Sunday’s win if Wieters’ big blast could potentially get him going at the plate after he’s struggled over the last two months.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

Wieters’ .208/.239/.333 line over that stretch took him from a .278/.343/.426 line down to .244/.295/.373 on the year heading into the series finale with the Cubs.

“He’s been taking extra BP,” Baker said, “and he’s not used to not hitting. Hopefully that will continue.”

The 31-year-old, nine-year veteran might not be used to not hitting, as Baker said, but Wieters’ .245/.294/.382 line on the season is pretty close to the .243/.302/.409 line the former Orioles’ catcher put up over 124 games and 464 plate appearances in Baltimore in 2016, before the O’s made the decision to let their ‘07 first-round pick walk.

Maybe his ejection in Saturday’s game sparked something in the backstop?

Wieters was thrown out at the end of the sixth inning after arguing about the strike zone each team was getting from home plate umpire Chad Whitson.

Baker said he wasn’t sure what led to Wieters getting tossed when the manager spoke after the loss on Saturday.

“That’s what I asked [Whitson],” Baker explained. “I asked him, ‘Did he curse you?’ and he said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘I told him that was enough,’ and he tossed him for talking, but I know Wieters didn’t curse him, because he doesn’t curse, and so that was a very, very quick hook in my opinion, and it took us down to one catcher. I don’t know how many times he’s gotten tossed, but I bet it’s not many.”

Wieters was actually arguing on behalf of his teammates according to what he said after Saturday’s game.

“He pretty much gave me a warning to quit arguing balls and strikes,” Wieters told reporters.

“And I was more arguing that they had a different strike zone than we had. And that’s what I thought for most of the game. Our left-handed hitters were getting some pitches called that were off the plate to them, and we had a couple pitches that last inning that we didn’t get that were really close if not strikes.

“His opinion obviously differed from mine, but I thought they had a little more liberal strike zone for whatever reason on the outside corner today.”

Could the last weekend spark something in Wieters that gets him going down the stretch?

The Nationals could use some added production from the catcher’s position, with Weiters, Jose Lobaton, and Pedro Severino (1 G) combining to produce a .224/.279/.364 line, 20 doubles, and 12 HRs in 109 games and 437 PAs thus far, down from the fairly impressive .297/.353/.480 line, 30 doubles, and 26 home runs the Nats got from their backstops in 2016.