You probably didn’t need to see Adam Jones wallop a 92-mph fastball from Minnesota’s Fernando Rodney into the left field seats in the 11th inning Thursday to understand what Jones means to this club, this organization.
But a walkoff homer on Opening Day and a double serving of shaving cream pie in the face, simply adds to his legacy.
“One of the first guys I spent some time with when I got here was Adam. So, obviously, I’ve got a little special affinity for the things he brings,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I understand him and the rough edges we all have, but he’s very consistent. Especially with his baseball. You know what you’re getting every night. That’s a lot of games to not ever walk up the runway and not feel like he wasn’t ready to play.”
Jones played in his 1,469th game as an Oriole on Thursday, seventh most in club history. The homer was his 249th as an Oriole, fifth all-time.
It was his 11th straight Opening Day start for the club – tied for seventh (with Brady Anderson) and second for center fielders behind only Paul Blair (12).
“Each one is more and more special because it shows I’ve been able to maintain and stay in the big leagues,” Jones said. “I think this one is probably more important because my kids are able to talk a little bit better and they understand what’s going on better. And that’s who I play for.”
Let’s not forget that Jones is a free-agent after the season. So, this could be his last Opening Day as an Oriole. He wouldn’t bite on that angle after the game.
“Who knows? But, right now, I’m here and it’s awesome,” he said. “So happy about that.”
If you want to put Jones’ importance to these Orioles in perspective, consider this: Since Jones made his Orioles’ debut in 2008, the club has had eight different starting left fielders on Opening Day and five different right fielders, including five in the past five years (including Nick Markakis’ final one in Baltimore in 2014).
In that time, the Orioles have had six Opening Day starting third basemen, five shortstops, three second basemen, six first basemen, five catchers, eight designated hitters and seven Opening Day starting pitchers.
And one center fielder.
A center fielder who is hitting .341 (15-for-44) with two homers and eight RBIs on Opening Day.
Yeah, his portfolio here keeps increasing. And it wasn’t just the homer that continued it Thursday. After his heroics, Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado rushed onto the field and hit Jones with two shaving cream pies as he was conducting a TV interview.
The young bucks Jones’d Jones.
And what was the veteran’s response?
“I knew they were coming with something,” he said, smiling. “I’m glad they continued our legacy on with that. I won’t complain about that.”
Brach more bad luck than bad
When it comes to acceptance, big league closer is a thankless job. All the pressure is on you, and if you don’t get the job done, well, it’s your fault.
Brad Brach entered Thursday with a 2-0 lead in the top of the ninth. He left with the score tied at 2-2 and his first blown save in his first save opportunity of the season.
Brach walked two and allowed two singles while recording two strikeouts. Not pretty, especially when you include that he threw 34 pitches.
But first baseman Chris Davis could have ended the afternoon early, but lost a high-hopper – presumably in the sun – that was ruled a hit. And the two-run single Brach yielded to Robbie Grossman blooped into left field just over the outstretched arms of Machado. Oh, and Brach lost an 11-pitch battle with Max Kepler on a close pitch that was ruled ball four.
“Borderline pitch could have gone either way, 3-2. Gives up a … flare today that broke the guy’s bat and he dumped it into center field after we get a ball in the sun we can’t see,” Showalter said. “That’s why you don’t play the game on paper and completely analytically, because things like that you can’t evaluate. So many things that happen in innings like that.”
Plenty of people question whether Brach can handle the closer duties while Zach Britton is out. And we’ll see what happens as the season progresses. But he deserves a bit of a pass on Thursday’s outing. Davis handles that ball and Brach gets his first save and his line is one inning, one walk, two strikeouts and no runs.
Gentry makes Showalter’s point in right
It was a strange and noteworthy Opening Day decision: Starting right-handed-hitting Craig Gentry in right field against right-hander Jake Odorizzi.
The reasoning was twofold: Gentry had modest success against Odorizzi (2-for-4) in his career while left-handed-hitting Colby Rasmus hasn’t (1-for-11 with six strikeouts). And, typically, Odorizzi fares better against lefties (.221 opposing batting average) than righties (.250).
The other part – and why right-handed-hitting Danny Valencia (3-for-10 versus Odorizzi) didn’t get the start – is that Gentry is considered an above-average outfielder. Showalter loves Gentry’s speed and the jumps he gets on flyballs.
That was in evidence twice Thursday.
In the first inning, Miguel Sano tried to beat a left-side shift and hit a fly ball toward the foul line in right, but it stayed up long enough for Gentry, who was shading to center, to catch it on a sprint.
Then, in the second, Gentry’s start really paid off.
Minnesota cleanup hitter Eddie Rosario hit a deep fly to center that continued to carry. Gentry kept tracking it closer and closer to center and then jumped at the wall to rob Rosario of a home run. We didn’t know it at the time, but it preserved Dylan Bundy’s shutout outing, and, ultimately, assisted in the Orioles’ one-run victory.
“That was one of the things that Gentry brings,” Showalter said. “He’s going to figure out a way to impact not only your game, but what the other manager can and won’t do, especially late in the game.”
Showalter is a perfect 8-0
OK, maybe it is just a weird stat, completely coincidental. But, hey, that’s my job to bring you those factoids.
Showalter is now 8-0 on Opening Days for the Orioles. Really.
Some on Twitter responded that it was a meaningless stat – and that as relayed to the manager.
Showalter’s response: “We know Twitter is always right, so why are we even discussing it?”
There was a concern that the streak may end this year. Showalter’s oldest daughter, Allie, who lives in Texas, attended the first seven, but couldn’t make Thursday’s. She was worried she had jinxed her dad.
“She called me after the game. It’s the first Opening Day she’s ever missed,” he said.