Adam Jones is mired in a slump of sorts in that he’s only reached base two out of his last twenty at-bats. At this point in the column let me take pause for a moment to drive home a point about context. If you take my initial comment about a slump out of context, yeah Jones is struggling at the plate right now. However if you put it back into the context that it belongs, not so much. Jones is also 2-for-2 in his last two plate appearances, including a big one in the last of the 12th yesterday. Following a Chris Davis walk on a full count, Jones deposited an 0-1 fastball from B.J. Rosenberg (who was making his big league debut) into the Orioles’ bullpen for a walk off home run.
This was a sloppy game in terms of the defense for both sides. Philadelphia committed three errors, and the Orioles one. However both sides had several other plays that probably could have been ruled errors and ended up base hits. That aside, prior to the game the Birds had to make a roster move in order to call up Tommy Hunter to make the start. The speculation was that Jake Arrieta would go down to triple-A Norfolk in the wake of his poor outing (and several poor outings in a row at that) on Friday night. Instead, the Orioles optioned reliever Miguel Gonzalez to Norfolk in order to “stretch him out” a bit, and sent Arrieta to the bullpen. This came as a surprise to a lot of people – not excluding myself – and a lot of folks have questions as to why. Admittedly, you can put me in that category, as I didn’t see sending Arrieta to Norfolk to re-gain his touch as a horrible thing. (One way or the other we’ll see him starting for the Orioles again at some point.) However I would also say that Buck Showalter has been doing this for quite some time, and he’s probably earned the right not to have moves like this second-guessed by people who aren’t as seasoned as he is.
Hunter turned in a quality start: 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K. The concern was that the three runs all came on solo homers. However I do find it ironic that the same people who were crying about this yesterday are also complaining about how many solo home runs the Orioles hit (in general). I suppose my point would be that if you’re going to give up home runs, solo’s are the best kind to give up. However needless to say Jim Thome has killed the Orioles in this series, and in fact that continues a trend that he’s had for most of his career. This is part of how interleague play works, and quite honestly NL teams have a distinct advantage in that sense.
Not only has Thome hurt the Orioles with his home runs, but he did so with a single yesterday. With the O’s leading 4-3 in the eighth, Thome’s RBI-single off of Pedro Strod scored Juan Pierre and tied the game. Strop did give up the tying run (which gave Tommy Hunter a no-decision), however he showed great composure in getting Ty Wiggington to hit into an inning-ending double-play with the bases loaded (following an Andino error). Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel decided to play the old “go for the lead on the road (and tie at home)” trick by pinch-running John Mayberry for Thome. Philadelphia couldn’t take the lead, and that retired Thome’s bat for the game. One has to wonder if Manuel didn’t second-guess himself when Mayberry came up in the 11th with one on and one out.
However in a game that was destined all along for extra innings, it was Adam Jones who finally grabbed the bull by the horns. I found it interesting that Manuel chose to ask B.J. Rosenberg to make his major league debut on the road in extra innings (when the opponent needs only one run to walk off with a win). That’s a tough position to put a rookie in. However luckily for the Orioles that’s what happened, and Jones was in a hitting mood. Is he 2-for (his last) -20? Yes, but that’s kind of a moot point when those two came in his final two at-bats, one of which was a walk off home run.
The O’s go for another series victory this afternoon against the Phillies, as they send Jason Hammel to the mound against Cliff Lee. Ironically, Lee is currently without a win on the season, and the Orioles don’t want him to get his first this afternoon at the yard. The Birds have hit Lee hard the past few times they’ve seen him (2010 with the Rangers), and there’s a specific reason for that. Lee pitches to contact, and the Orioles are a free-swinging type of club. It’s when a pitcher starts employing things such as late-movement on his pitches that the Orioles get tripped up. If Lee’s trends continue against the Birds, the Orioles might have a good afternoon and send the fans home happy with a series victory.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala