WASHINGTON — Matt Wieters was signed by the Washington Nationals after spring training had already started.
So the veteran catcher, who had spent all of his big-league career with the Baltimore Orioles, is trying to quickly learn the patterns of the Washington pitching staff.
Wieters knows what it is like to hit against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who will start Thursday against Miami Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler in the series finale in Washington. The Nationals will be looking to sweep the three-game series after wins Monday and Wednesday, as Wieters had three hits in the second game.
Gonzalez has been with the Nationals since 2012, and each year Washington plays a home-and-home series with the Orioles.
“I remember Gio when he was younger,” Wieters said. “He has definitely evolved his pitching style where he can pitch in different ways. That is something you will see as a catcher that you will have multiple options and you kind of point him in the direction for whatever we need that day.”
Gonzalez has made at least 32 starts in six of the last seven years, but his ERA has risen in each of the last four seasons.
He will be opposed by Koehler, who was 9-13 last season with a 4.33 ERA in 33 starts. The product of Stony Brook in New York is 1-2 in five career starts against the Nationals with a 4.50 ERA.
“He doesn’t give in (to hitters) ever. He tries to give you as many innings as possible,” Marlins closer A.J. Ramos said. “He is a competitor. He is always prepared. He has the preparation and desire. That is all we ask of starters: Go out there and keep the game close and do your best.”
Koehler has given up six home runs in 32 at-bats to Bryce Harper, the Washington right fielder. He has made at least 31 starts in each of the last three seasons.
“He has been a guy that takes the ball,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It is something you can count on. Tom is a picture of consistency for us.”
The Nationals won the series opener 4-2 on Monday as Harper and pinch-hitter Adam Lind hit homers off reliever David Phelps.
In the second game Wednesday, the Marlins scored two runs in the first off right-hander Tanner Roark before the bats awoke for the Nationals.
Washington scored four times in the fourth to chase starter Dan Straily and came back to win 6-4.
“Well, he made an adjustment,” manager Dusty Baker said of Roark. “He was throwing high with his fastball. This is a team that’s hit him pretty good in the past. He’s had some success the last couple times out, but Tanner makes adjustments. Wieters helped him make those adjustments. Wieters called a very good game for him. He went a little longer than we had thought.”
Baker is encouraged by the fast start of first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a homer Wednesday and is batting .427 coming off the worst year of his career, when he hit .218.
“He’s healthy. He feels good,” Baker said. “You see his confidence growing daily. He hit a tough pitch out to right field. That’s a good sign, especially this early in the year when that ball’s not flying out there too much until it warms up. Anything he gives us is big, especially in the middle of that lineup. He’s getting better every day.”