SAN DIEGO — Adam Jones had played just three major league games in his hometown before Tuesday night’s against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. But the Orioles center fielder — who was born just south of downtown in National City — definitely felt right at home with his family and friends in attendance.
Jones had a season-high four hits — including his 23rd homer of the season — driving in two runs and also scoring a pair in the Orioles’ 4-1 interleague win before an announced 28,055.
As a high schooler, Jones drew professional scouts to nearby Morse High School, just eight miles away from Petco Park, before he became a first-round draft pick. Now, he is 8-for-15 in four major league games here.
“It’s cool to have my family and friends here. I’ve seen them in Anaheim but here there’s a lot more, obviously,” Jones said. “But I’m here to play baseball. It’s cool to hear the cheers and all that. But I’m here to play a baseball game. … Just glad we got the win.”
Right-hander Bud Norris (8-9), making his second start since he was acquired by the Orioles in a deal with the Houston Astros before the non-waiver trade deadline, escaped some early-inning trouble to hold the Padres to one run over six innings.
The Orioles (62-51) entered this three-city, eight-game road trip against National League West teams having lost eight of their past 12 games. But Tuesday’s result was a promising beginning to a pivotal stretch.
Despite their recent struggles, the Orioles are 1 1/2 games back of the second American League wild-card spot, tied with the Cleveland Indians. They also remained six games back of AL East-leading Boston — the Red Sox beat Houston 15-10 on Tuesday – and 4 ½ back of second-place Tampa Bay.
The Orioles realize to put themselves in a position to fight for the division title down the stretch – 29 of their last 39 games are against AL East teams – they have to first take care of business out west.
“We have to control our own destiny,” Jones said. “If we look at the scoreboard, Boston won today, Tampa is winning, that’s not going to do anything for our game. We have to control what we can control and if we rack up the 'W's if we are going to give ourselves the best chance. And the cool part about it is we are going to run into Tampa and Boston in September, so we just want to give ourselves [chance], when Sept. 1, everybody is close, and run the gauntlet.”
Jones put the Orioles ahead, 1-0, Tuesday with a two-out RBI single in the first inning.
In his second at-bat, he launched a first-pitch changeup from Padres starter Edison Volquez (8-9) down the left-field line and into the first deck of seats connected to the four-story brick Western Metal Supply Co. building to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
“Adam put together a big night,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “His two-out RBIs are always a momentum change.”
The loud “O” during the national anthem also spoke volumes that the Orioles had lots of support out west.
“The coolest part about it was the ‘O’ during the national anthem,” Jones said. “There were a lot of guys down the third-base line that screamed right in our ear. And I think it shocked us a little bit, and I think got us going a little bit. That’s cool.”
The Padres were a woeful 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position against Norris.
Through two starts with the Orioles, Norris has allowed just three runs over 12 innings, pitching to a 2.25 ERA and winning both games.
“He goes after people,” Jones said. “And this team, you see it in our eyes, we are all competitors. We don’t like to give anything away. And he's fit right into the mold of this team. No nonsense, get the job done and no excuses ,and he’s given us a big lift these two starts.”
Norris’ experience against the National League — he pitched his first four major league seasons in the NL with Houston — came in handy. Norris improved his record against the Padres to 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA in five career starts. He also was 1-for-2 at the plate Tuesday, singling to center in the fifth.
On the mound, Norris stranded a runner at third with no outs in three innings, including each of the first two. Will Venable led off the bottom of the first with a triple to left-center, but Norris retired the next three hitters to emerge unscathed.
In the second inning, Norris issued a leadoff walk to Jedd Gyorko, who went to third on Alexi Amarista’s single, placing runners at the corners with no outs. But Norris struck out shortstop Logan Forsythe on three pitches and then induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
“A big momentum boost for sure,” Norris said. “A leadoff triple is never the way you want to start the game, but in this ballpark you have to put up a lot of zeros, and there’s not really a lot of high-scoring games here. … Any way you can leave them there stranded is huge, and I know they’re not necessarily trying to do that, but I know I need to execute my pitches and I got lucky tonight.”
The Padres (52-61) opened the sixth with three straight singles, the final one by Yonder Alonso driving in Chris Denorfia from second. But Norris stranded runners at the corners after he retired the next three hitters.
“He made a lot of good pitches,” Showalter said. “Sometimes you wiggle out of those situations and you’re just fortunate. He made a lot of good pitches in those first two innings. To hold it at 2-1, that was more impressive. He was starting to elevate the ball a little bit. He found a way to get through that one.”
Volquez, whom the Orioles had expressed interest in before the trade deadline, allowed two runs on six hits over six innings, striking out six and walking two.
After Jones’ fourth hit of the game — he last recorded four hits last Sept. 24 against the Toronto Blue Jays — he stole second and Chris Davis looped an RBI double down the right-field line to make it 3-1 in the eighth. It was Davis’ 103rd RBI of the season.
The Orioles added an insurance run on Manny Machado's two-out single in the ninth off reliever Tim Stauffer.
Orioles right-hander Darren O’Day faced the tying run in the eighth inning with one on and one down, but needed just two pitches to induce a 1-6-3 inning-ending double play.
Jim Johnson allowed a one-out single to Logan Forsythe in the ninth, but the Orioles closer then induced a game-ending 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Nick Hundley for his 39th save of the season.