HOUSTON — You don’t usually expect your cleanup hitter to drop a bunt in the ninth inning of a one-run game, but that’s just what Adam Jones did with the Orioles down to their second-to-last out in an eventual 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Orioles had struggled to get much going, managing just three singles and a walk after J.J. Hardy’s second-inning single. Jones was trying to bunt for a hit, to give Chris Davis a chance to drive him in. He believed that by getting on base, Astros reliever Chad Qualls would hesitate to throw his slider in the dirt, thereby giving Davis a better chance at getting a pitch to hit.
But Jones -- who had the Orioles' only extra-base hit on the night -- popped up the bunt attempt, making an easy out for catcher Jason Castro.
"I'm just trying to get on base any way I can,” Jones explained. “I haven't been swinging the bat the way I want to, driving the ball recently the way I want to. I saw the third baseman back, and [wanted] any way to get on base with CD [up next]. He hasn't been swinging the bat well, either, but this could be a situation to get him out of it.
“What I was trying to do was do something different than just the norm, and it backfired, but I'm glad I attempted it, so it's going to be in the back of their minds,” Jones added. “And hopefully it will be beneficial. I might not need to try it again. I need to use that as part of my game. I've been kind of negating it the last couple of years because I've been batting three and four [in the lineup], but I think I need to really implement that back because that really helped me with everything — with hitting and playing the game the right way."
Showalter doesn’t like to take the bat out of his top hitters’ hands, but said it didn’t make sense to second-guess Jones.
“It would be hindsight,” Showalter said. “He gets it down, Chris hits a two-run home run, and you know [what] we’d be talking about. ... I know what it looks like on paper, but you’ve got to trust what they feel and what they don’t feel. We’ll talk like we always do after the fact. Right now, it’s not the time for me. He’ll certainly have a good reason, and I trust him.”
If you look at the past two games, and you take away Nelson Cruz, who is 3-for-8 over that span, the rest of the Orioles’ lineup is hitting just .158 (9-for-57).
Even if you give the Astros resurgent pitching as much credit as it deserves, it’s still not good enough. Caleb Joseph’s eighth-inning walk was the Orioles' first since the fourth inning of Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee. That’s a span of 22 innings without drawing a walk.
Again, even if you give Houston the credit it deserves, that’s not good enough.