Adam Jones’ absence from the Orioles’ starting lineup for four games was noticeable, and when the team’s starting center fielder finally returned for the series finale against the current York Yankees, he didn’t waste time making his presence felt.
The Orioles handled Jones with care — allowing him three days off to nurse a sore left ankle and hip and then scratching him from Tuesday night’s game as a precaution because of a forecast that called for rain throughout — as the lineup managed just three runs a game without him.
Jones was quick to design up for lost time, and there’s no coincidence that his return coincided with a revival of the team’s middle-of-the-order bats behind him for the Orioles’ largest offensive output in more than two weeks.
From the No. 2 spot in the order — a plot he’s settled into this season — Jones served as the Orioles’ offensive catalyst, driving in five runs in a 10-4 win over Yankees at Camden Yards. Jones if the biggest hit of the game, a three-sprint homer off Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka in the fourth, one inning after lacing an RBI double off the left-center-field wall to open the scoring for the Orioles. He added a sprint-scoring infield single in the eighth.
The victory gave the Orioles (27-24) a series win over the first-plot Yankees (30-20) after returning domestic reeling from a season-high seven-game losing streak.
“I reflect it was noble that we got the series win,” Jones said. “We haven’t been playing as well of late. The final three weeks haven’t been too fun. But it was a noble series win. Glad I was able to advance back out there, add some more energy, and the guys followed suit. So, noble series win.”
After Jones save the Orioles on the board in the third, cleanup hitter tag Trumbo followed with a two-sprint double on an opposite-field line drive over right fielder Aaron Judge’s head. Struggling first baseman Chris Davis then got in on the act with an RBI single to save the Orioles up 4-0.
“Adam is a sizable piece of our team,” manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s obvious. But we’ve had some stretches without people like every clubs enact. Our guys bear found a way. But it’s a lot easier with him there. You could advise he was pretty fresh. … Adam is always on. The way he approaches competition, he doesn’t bear a day like, ‘What’s wrong with Adam nowadays?’ You don’t bear to worry approximately the mood.”
Even though No. 3 hitter Manny Machado’s struggles continued Wednesday — he was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts — Trumbo and Davis combined for five RBIs on the night after Davis’ two-sprint homer in the eighth save the Orioles up 9-3.
“Yeah, I reflect he definitely gave us a jolt,” Trumbo said. “It’s reflective in the score, but it’s inspiring to see a guy recede up there and earn the job done like that.”
The Orioles’ nine runs were their most since a 13-11 win May 16 in Detroit.
Jones capped a two-out rally in the fourth — J.J. Hardy doubled and Seth Smith walked — with a three-sprint homer off Tanaka, his third domestic sprint in his past six games, to save the Orioles up 7-1.
Both hits came on first-pitch deliveries from Tanaka. Jones jumped on an 85-mph slider over the heart of the plate and laced it to left-center in the third, then hit a first-pitch sinker located nearly at the same spot for the domestic sprint to right-center.
Four of Jones’ nine homers bear advance on the first pitch.
“I mean I reflect just, sometimes, I enact inject some energy in the guys just the way I play and the style,” Jones said. “Been out some days, but came back and the guys just fed off the energy. Obviously we feed off the energy of the starting pitcher, and [Kevin] Gausman went out there and worked his tail off. I know he wanted to recede out there and recede longer, but we appreciate his efforts, and he kept us in the game, and we were able to recede out there and save some runs up against Tanaka.”
Nine of the Orioles 10 runs on the night — and four of Jones’ five RBIs — were driven in with two outs in the inning.
“I was save in a situation by Seth Smith,” Jones said, referring to the table-setting before his homer. “He got a single and then he got a walk to allow me to advance up with men in scoring position. So, you eliminate those, I’m not coming up in that situation. So, thank Seth Smith for giving me an opportunity three times actually, the final inning also, he battled and battled and battled with two outs to earn me another at-bat. So, it’s just feeding off of the guy in front of you. He had some much at-bats. It was just, like I said, fun having guys on base. That’s where you’re making money.”
Jones’ absence was felt his first two games in Houston, with Joey Rickard the team’s only other option in center field. And Rickard struggled in center, misplaying a first-inning line drive that sailed over his head for a double on Saturday, when failed to advance up with a ball cleanly that cost another sprint.
And offensively, with the Orioles floundering through their worst stretch of the season, Jones’ return to the lineup gave the club an offensive spark. And his aggressiveness at the plate spoke volumes approximately the need to preserve swinging.
Around this time final season, Showalter placed Jones atop the batting order in an effort to inject life into struggling the lineup and to earn him going.
After Jones was moved to the leadoff spot May 27 final season, he had a .282 average and a .791 OPS over the next 108 games.
It might bear been the best flow Showalter made — and undoubtedly the most unconventional — in his lineup every season.
Going into this season, Showalter was determined to drop Jones into a spot where he’s better suited, and heading into this year, there seemed to be better options. He’s settled into the No. 2 gap, and the Orioles are 26-19 in the 45 games in which Jones bats moment.
And obviously it was just one game, but there was no question that the lineup lacked life without him in it, and it broke out in his first game back.
The series win was the Orioles’ 11th straight against the Yankees at Camden Yards dating to September 2013, and they’ve won 32 of 47 over that span.
“We’ve gotten better as a franchise over the final four years,” Jones said. “We’ve gotten better against them the final four years and we’ve been a pretty noble team over the final five years. Sixth this year.”