By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
Zander Wiel‘s introduction to Triple-A didn’t go anywhere near the way he expected.
In his first eight games, he managed to collect just three hits in 28 official at-bats and struck out 10 times.
Can we hit the reset button?
Why yes, yes we can.
Wiel is making sure he finishes the season with a flurry and on Sunday night sent 7,617 fans home happy from Frontier Field with a walk-off two-run home run.
Wiel blasted a pitch from Edgar Garcia far over the fence into left field to give the Red Wings a 6-5 victory and general manager Dan Mason a big smile on his birthday.
“They just got done singing ‘Happy Birthday’ so we had to give him a present,” said Wings manager Joel Skinner, whose club takes a 64-75 record into Monday’s 1:05 season finale.
Garcia was handed a 5-4 lead as he took over to start the bottom of the ninth an threw just two pitches. The first he threw was hit for a double by Jon Kemmer. The next was sent out of the park by Wiel for his third homer of the week (and in Triple-A).
“I was just looking for something I could drive and I got something I could handle,” said Wiel, who hit .313 with 7 homers and 58 RBI in 101 games for Double-A Chattanooga before his Aug. 21 promotion.
The first week or so with the Wings was an exhibition in frustration. What’s that saying, the harder you try …”
“It’s been a little rough at times,” he said. “”Whenever you get called up, you want to prove you belong. After a little bit you realize it’s the same game.”
Now he’s squaring up pitches on the barrel of the bat. He’s driving the ball to the outfield.
“I’m just trying to finish strong,” said Wiel, a first baseman drafted in the 12th round in 2015.
Omar Bencomo started on the mound for the Wings and gave up two runs in the first but was then fine until the seventh, when former Wings outfielder Danny Ortiz crushed a three-run homer to center field to give the IronPigs (83-56) a 5-4 lead.
Vargas then belted a two-run shot in the third inning, his 21st of the season, and the Wings led 4-2.
Nick Anderson, who has been mentioned as a possible call-up by the Twins after Monday’s finale, pitched two mow ’em down innings of relief. He struck out five of the six batters he faced, throwing 24 pitches.