Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was the hero of Team USA’s walk-off 3-2 victory over upset-minded Colombia in Friday’s World Baseball Classic Pool C opener for both teams at Marlins Park. And as much as his game-winning RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning avoided a disastrous opener for the U.S., it might've been Jones’ other RBI that proved to be more important.
The format of Pool C doesn’t favor the loser of Friday’s game between the U.S. and Colombia because both teams must play on three straight days – unlike the Dominican Republic and Canada, which opened play Thursday and had a day off before resuming Saturday. And opening pool play with a loss put that team on the brink of elimination.
Taking into account how USA manager Jim Leyland had to use six relievers in Friday’s game, a Team USA loss would've been a gut punch going into Saturday’s game against the defending-champion Dominican Republic in a game that would've been a must-win to emerge from pool play.
But Jones saved the day for Team USA, and after the game, he said it was one of the highlights of his baseball career.
“Obviously I had a lot of good moments with the Orioles playing against Major League Baseball teams,” Jones said. “But this one, playing against countries, obviously everything is individualized from country to country, this ranks up there pretty high. The group of guys we have -- I tip my cap to Team Colombia; they played their tails off. [Jose] Quintana and their defense, they completely I think just impressed everybody and hopefully that country. The baseball in that country continues to grow and grow and grow, because they've got a bright future as a country with baseball.”
Colombia jumped out early, hitting three straight two-out doubles off Orioles reliever Mychal Givens, a flurry that had to send a shock through the USA dugout, especially as the left-handed Quintana of the Chicago White Sox didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the sixth inning.
That’s when Jones gave the United States hope, lacing an RBI double down the left-field line off Colombia reliever William Cuevas. As he pulled into second base having driven in the USA’s first run, an exubarant Jones yelled into his dugout.
Jones was robbed of a hit in his first at-bat, scorching a line drive to center field that Colombia center fielder Tito Polo made a great diving play on. He had a chance to put Team USA up in the eighth with runners at the corners with one out tied at two, but he struck out swinging through a cut fastball from Cuevas.
In Jones’ game-winning at-bat, he battled from down 0-2, fouling off two fastballs before looping a splitter into shallow center field, turning the corner at first before being mobbed by his teammates.
After the game, Jones was doused with a cooler of ice water by teammate Chris Archer.
“I’m used to getting pies,” Jones said on the MLB Network telecast. “I’ve never gotten that one before.”