Orioles, Jones look alive in road trip finale
By Steve Katz
Sunday’s series salvaging victory at Tampa Bay was a relief in more than just one way for the Baltimore Orioles. The offense, held to one run and six hits over the first two games of the series, produced 10 runs on 16 hits. Matt Moore, who came in 8-1, but blew up in this game, allowed career highs of nine runs and 12 hits in the five innings he worked. No doubt scoring 10 runs was a relief to Buck Showalter.
The other relief came from the man who got three of those 16 hits, Adam Jones. He had a 3-for-5 day, including an RBI double and a solo homer that traveled a reported 457 feet to left-center field, the longest homer of his career.
Jones’ breakout was significant because he had been struggling for a few weeks, his average sinking steadily from its April-May levels to .300 coming into this game. Before his skid, Jones hit .311 (37 for 119) with a .546 slugging percentage, .890 OPS, seven doubles, seven home runs and 17 RBI in 28 May games.
Through the first four games in June, Jones was batting .118 (2 for 17) with no extra-base hits or RBI. Jones also had seven strikeouts, which included a season-high four last Sunday against the Tigers. Although four games obviously do not a swoon make, in the first week of June overall coming into yesterday’s game, he had three hits, no homers and one RBI – and no walks.
Adam Jones singles during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field Sunday. Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
His eight walks all season are the fewest of any Major League outfielder with over 200 at-bats, his 265 trips being the most of any outfielder in baseball. Those 265 are also the second-most in baseball. Know who’s first? Teammate Manny Machado, with 271. He has 14 walks and 40 strikeouts. Mike Trout, Jones’ opponent this week, is right behind Jones with 256 at-bats, and he has 29 walks and 55 strikeouts.
At the higher end of the spectrum, Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce, fifth in baseball with 252 at-bats, has an ugly 78 strikeouts, tied for fourth-most in the majors, and 19 walks. At the lower end of the spectrum, Nick Markakis, also with 252 at-bats, has struck out an insanely low 22 times, to go with 19 walks.
In the Orioles’ series at Houston last week, Jones hit the ball sharply a few times but right at people, and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve got to every grounder Jones hit up the middle. Altuve got to those balls because he was shaded up the middle on Jones. The reason an infielder would do that is if the scouting report said Jones rarely hits to right field. Jones’ recent tendency was to try to pull everything.
He had gotten beat on different kinds of pitches, not just the slider he is notorious for missing, and has struck out 52 times, after doing so 126 times last season. Not walking him is, of course, the approach of most pitchers, so that Chris Davis can’t drive him in.
Ironically, as Jones heated up Sunday, Chris Davis took an 0-for-5. His strikeouts are up in the past week, including two Sunday. He was hitless in 12 at-bats in the series and saw his average drop from .357 to .338. But with numbers as huge as his, you don’t start worrying about his performance plummeting just yet.
He is the leading vote-getter at first base for the All Star Game, and Jones is the leading outfield vote-getter, just ahead of Trout, with 1,944,450 votes.
As possible as it is to point to holes in his game – his habit of eschewing the cutoff man and the fact that opposing runners take liberties on his strong yet erratic arm (twice Sunday) – it is still difficult to name an overall better center fielder in the American League. His 12 homers, 40 RBI and 81 hits lead all Major League center fielders.
The Orioles host the Angels for three starting tonight at Camden Yards, Freddy Garcia opposing Jered Weaver. Let’s recall the Astros, before hosting the Orioles this past week, swept the Angels in four games at Anaheim. The Angels are 27-36. Weaver has gone 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts since coming back from a fractured left elbow. He allowed one unearned run in six innings of a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.