Jones' walk-off two-run blast gives Orioles 5-3 win over Royals

O's rally from 3-0 deficit to take series opener in bottom of ninth inning

May 25, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

He was punched, elbowed and slapped, and when all that was over, Adam Jones was slammed in the face with a shaving cream pie by teammate Robert Andino.

But the only thing the Orioles' center fielder and the star of their latest comeback remembered Tuesday night was the ball soaring off his bat and sailing majestically over the center-field fence.

"First time I ever got one like that, so I didn't feel nothing, to be honest with you," Jones said.

With the Orioles down by a run in the ninth after eight innings full of offensive frustration, pinch-hitter Felix Pie tied the score with a one-out double off Kansas City Royals closer Joakim Soria, and Jones won it with a two-out, two-run homer that lifted the home team to a 5-3 victory in front of an announced 14,077 at Camden Yards.

"We hate closers in here," said Jones, who crushed Soria's 0-2, 91 mph cut fastball 418 feet for his sixth homer of the season. "We want to give all the closers L's. We were able to do it. We've gotten to a few closers here this year. That's what it comes down to. They're trying to close us out, and we ain't letting them go."

It was the Orioles' first game-ending home run since Brian Roberts connected for one against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 9.

The Orioles, who have now three straight to improve to 22-24, beat Seattle Mariners closer Brandon League twice this month, and they also denied an all-but-certain Hall of Fame closer, the New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera, two saves at Camden Yards this season. But this was their first victory of the year when trailing after eight innings.

Soria (3-1) has struggled this year, blowing three of 10 save opportunities. However, the right-hander is a two-time All-Star, had been 7-for-7 in save opportunities against the Orioles and hadn't allowed a run against them in 11 1/3 innings.

All that changed in a big way Tuesday as Soria couldn't preserve what would've been Danny Duffy's first major league win. J.J Hardy started the rally with a one-out double down the left-field line, and Pie drove the next pitch past third baseman Wilson Betemit for a double of his own, this one tying the game.

Soria struck out Robert Andino, but he couldn't finish off Jones after quickly getting ahead 0-2.

"The pitch was up and away, and he hit it well," said Soria, whom the Orioles had been just 6-for-40 against entering Tuesday's ninth inning. "In this park, if you hit the ball well, it's going to go out."

Jones tossed his helmet into the air and was mobbed at home plate by his teammates. Pitcher Alfredo Simon (1-0) was part of that scrum. The big right-hander pitched a perfect top of the ninth inning and became the winning pitcher in his first big league appearance since Sept. 26.

"It feels really good," said Simon, who didn't start his spring training until early April after he was imprisoned in his native Dominican Republic for two months as the chief suspect in a fatal New Year's Day shooting. "That was my first outing, and we got the win. I said thank you to Jonesy, who hit the home run. I am really happy right now."

The comeback spared starter Zach Britton a third loss. The young lefty didn't have his best stuff, but he was able to get through six innings while allowing only three runs. The Royals (22-25) jumped on the rookie in the first inning, scoring on Jeff Francoeur's RBI single. That was broke a streak of 19 2/3 innings in which Britton hadn't allowed an earned run.

They added another run in the third when Alex Gordon crushed a 3-2 changeup over the scoreboard in right field for his fifth home run of the season, then extended their lead to three runs in the sixth on Billy Butler's RBI single.

"I didn't have a good changeup, didn't have a good sinker," said Britton, who allowed nine hits and walked two. "So it's tough to pitch to a pretty good-hitting team. They're bound to get their hits when you only have two pitches working."

Britton did well to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth by retiring Gordon on a pop-up to Hardy at shortstop. Heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Orioles' offense hadn't scored a run in the past 27 1/3 innings with Britton on the mound.

In four of the first five innings Tuesday night against Duffy, who was making his second major league start, the Orioles had a runner on second base and no outs. Their most egregious missed opportunity was in the fifth, when Hardy and Brandon Snyder led off with walks.

The walk to Hardy was on four pitches, and then Snyder watched five before taking his base. However, Andino didn't take any pitches, and trying to drop down a sacrifice bunt, he instead popped up a high fastball. Royals third baseman Wilson Betemit caught it and threw to second to double up Hardy.

That stood to be the Orioles' biggest lament of the night until the dramatic ninth inning. They had been 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position when the bottom of the ninth started.

"Sometimes you've got to do it against the good guys," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We talk about it all the time. I don't want to hear people talk about, 'Oh, we face such good pitching in the American League East every night.' Guess what? That's what it is. You've got to beat the good guys, too. That's why they call it the big leagues. I don't like our chances every night down by one run against [Soria], I can tell you that, but we were fortunate."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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