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Nick Markakis has seen Adam Jones make his share of spectacular defensive plays over the years, so the right fielder might be the best judge of the center fielder's talents.
And Markakis said after Monday's game that the double-play that Jones turned in the sixth inning of the Orioles’ 9-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards might be one of the best he has seen his teammate make.
With two runners on base and no outs, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria lofted a fly ball that appeared to be headed over the left-center field fence and into the Orioles bullpen.
But Jones tracked the high fly ball down, settled in front of the fence and perfectly timed a leaping catch over the wall to rob Longoria of a home run.
Jones then hit off the fence and threw a dart to second base, one-hopping a throw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop to get Matt Joyce attempting to tag up from first base. Schoop’s tag was challenged by Rays manager Joe Maddon, but the play quickly was upheld.
“I think the throw was more impressive,” Markakis said. “When he was going back on it, I knew he was going to have a chance on it. He got back there well, timed it and to do what he did after that is the most impressive part. It’s easy to get caught up in robbing a home run.
"To do that and bounce off the wall and make a one-hop throw like he did, that’s what we work for every day, and it all pays off. It was probably one of the better plays I’ve seen him make.”
Jones gave credit to Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, who held the Rays to one unearned run and three hits over seven innings.
“When your pitcher keeps you in the game, you're alert,” Jones said. “Just got to know where you're at, know who's on base, what's going on.”
Tillman said he has seen Jones make plays for him like that one in the past. But he appreciated the added measure of throwing a base runner out at second base, which helped Tillman escape from the inning unscathed.
Otherwise, there would have been two runners in scoring position and just one out.
“What I told him [was] I had a real big déjà vu,” Tillman said. “In 2009, 2010, he had probably three or four like that for me. It’s awesome. Typical Adam, not satisfied with the catch, he had to throw someone out. He’s in the upper echelon. He’s one of the best center fielders in the game, if not the best.”
Said shortstop J.J. Hardy: “That ranks up there with one of the best, for sure. He got up there and then to throw him out at second, to show off his arm a little bit, that’s just a great all-around play.”
Unlike Markakis, Orioles manager Buck Showalter couldn’t decide with which part of the play he was most impressed.
"I don't know what was better, the catch or the throw,” Showalter said. “That's just the way Adam plays the game. He's such a great example-setter."
The Orioles have recorded 29 outfield assists, including 15 that were throw-outs at second base. Jones has six assists this season. Markakis leads the team with 10.