Jones' homer in 15th gives Orioles 4-3 win over Royals
By By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun|
May 17, 2012 | 2:40 AM
|KANSAS CITY, Mo.
Adam Jones stepped up the plate for his seventh at-bat Wednesday night with the voices of the hecklers around home plate ringing in his ears. With Kauffman Stadium emptied out from 15 innings of baseball, he could hear the Royals fans reminding him of his previous six hitless at-bats, including two strikeouts.
It was his three failed attempts with runners in scoring position that irked the Orioles center fielder the most, ones that could have had him and his teammates back in their hotel beds hours earlier.
Jones had had enough. And the Orioles — going to extra innings for the third time in their past four road games — came up with a familiar ending.
Jones — making a case for a return trip to Kansas City in six weeks for the All-Star Game — rocketed a 15th-inning game-winning homer, his team-high 12th home run of the season, deep into the Missouri night, giving the Orioles a 4-3 victory over the Royals.
"We have a team here that when we show up to the ballpark every single day, there's no one person who doesn't believe we can win," Jones said. "That's a feeling I've never really had before. The resilience is different. I said we were resilient a few years ago, but it's different now because we have guys from different organizations coming here and bringing their values, their winning mentality."
The victory, their fifth straight win in extra-inning games — all on the road — kept the Orioles (24-14) tied for first place in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays.
"There's such a temptation and allure to give in," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his team's success in extra innings. "In our sport, more than any, if you can stay emotionally and mentally strong, you can get a payback. It's a part of the job description every team faces, but our guys have had a lot of resolve about finishing the task."
"We've got a lot of people who have been here last year and the year before. There are some guys who have had their nose bloodied a lot here, and they're willing to fight to not have it happen again."
Nine innings simply hasn't been enough for these Orioles on the road. But then again, nothing has been easy in this season full of late-inning comebacks and the roster shuffling that has followed.
Wednesday night was no different. Showalter was sent to a local hospital by team trainers after he complained of not feeling well but was released and arrived at the ballpark less than an hour before the first pitch.
The Orioles' offense also arrived at Kauffman Stadium late, needing a ninth-inning rally to force extra innings after being shut out by Royals starter Felipe Paulino for seven innings. Right-hander Tommy Hunter gave the Orioles a quality start, allowing just two runs over seven innings, his best start in nearly three weeks, scattering seven hits.
The Orioles' bullpen provided six scoreless extra innings to end the game. Left-hander Dana Eveland retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, and Kevin Gregg (1-1) did not allow a hit in two innings. Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless 15th to end the four-hour, 10-minute marathon with his 13th save.
"When you know one swing could end it, you have to be pretty spot-on," Eveland said. "I made a couple mistakes and they hit a couple balls hard, but they were right at people. Thank God for that."
Counting their sleep-deprived three-game series in Boston, the Orioles have played 54 innings in their past four road games, including 17-inning and 13-inning wins at Fenway Park.
"I've never seen anything like it," Gregg said. "We've come back late in a couple of those games. The resilience of our offense to get runs across the board on the back end of other bullpens is pretty impressive, so you know, as a team, we keep thinking we have the confidence that we're going to score in games if we need to."
Jones, who had the game-winning homer in the Orioles' 17-inning win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on May 6, hit the winning blast again, taking a delivery from reliever Nathan Adcock (0-1) an estimated 431 feet.
That made him forget about his 0-for-6 night going into that at-bat.
"Each at-bat, I take personal," Jones said. "I had three at-bats with runners in scoring position where I did not succeed, and that's by far the most frustrating thing for me."
Nine of Jones' 12 home runs this year have tied the game or given the Orioles the lead. On Wednesday, he became the first player with two game-winning homers in the 15th inning or later in the same season since Mark McGwire in 1988, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"Jonesy, he doesn't ever give in," Showalter said. "You always feel with him that at some point, if he struggles, somebody's going to pay down the line. He doesn't forget. It's nothing personal against the competition. It's just the way he's wound. He's a competitive young man. "
Trailing 3-1, the Orioles tied the game in the top of the ninth against Royals closer Jonathan Broxton. Wilson Betemit teed off on a 1-2 pitch from Broxton, sending it an estimated 409 feet just in front of the fountains in right-center field.
Chris Davis and Xavier Avery singled, and J.J. Hardy hit a run-scoring single to center as Jarrod Dyson's throw home was slightly off and pinch-runner Ryan Flaherty just beat the sweeping tag of catcher Humberto Quintero.
The Orioles managed just five hits off Paulino, who struck out nine batters in his seven innings.
Hunter, who allowed the leadoff man on in four of his first five innings, yielded two runs in the fifth. Leadoff batter Jeff Francoeur doubled down the right-field line, and two batters later, Hunter pegged shortstop Alcides Escobar with a pitch.
Chris Getz hit a sharp grounder to first that Davis couldn't scoop cleanly. He got the out at first but might have been able to get the runner at second.
That play, which put runners at second and third, cost the Orioles when Quintero, the No. 9 hitter, took a 1-2 delivery up the middle just past Hardy to score both runs.
Hunter was helped by three double plays early, negating the leadoff runner in the first, third and fifth innings.
The Orioles rallied in the eighth, making the score 2-1 after back-to-back doubles by Hardy and Nick Markakis to lead off the inning. But reliever Kelvin Herrera struck out Jones swinging on a fastball that registered at 101 mph on the stadium radar gun. And Markakis was thrown out trying to steal third with Matt Wieters hitting from the left side of the plate.
The Royals (15-21) made it 3-1 on Alex Gordon's double off Troy Patton in the eighth. Kansas City mounted a rally off Patton with two outs with a single by Billy Butler and Gordon's double.
But that was before the Orioles staged another late-inning comeback, ones that are becoming more frequent by the day and adding to this team's staying power.
"This team's special," Hunter said. "There's no question about that. If we've got a guy with a bat at the plate with an out remaining, I wouldn't put this team out of anything. I don't care how many runs you're down. I really don't. We actually believe we're going to win every single ballgame when we go out to the field. We believe that, and it's starting to shine through a little bit."