Adam Jones shakes the hand of Jim Thome after his fourth-inning… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
There’s been little rest for the Orioles recently, and fresh off a three-city, nine-game road trip, even manager Buck Showalter said that his team hoped to grind through the three days before their final off-day of the regular season on Thursday.
“It feels like we’ve been going for a month,” Showalter said.
But with 10 games to go in the regular season — and every one pivotal in a playoff race — adrenaline replaces any wear and tear.
Center fielder Adam Jones went 4-for-4 with a homer and Baltimore native Steve Johnson threw five scorless innings as the Orioles took the first game of Monday's single-admission doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-1.
Jones’ homer was his his 32nd of the season, a two-run shot in the fourth inning that gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Twenty of Jones’ homers this year have either tied the game or put the Orioles ahead.
Jones added three singles for his second four-hit game of the season (June 12 against the Pirates). He also scored his second run in the sixth, leading the inning off with a single, moving to third on Matt Wieters’ double and scoring on a double-play ball to put the Orioles up 4-0.
Rookie Ryan Flaherty hit a solo homer in the fifth, a ball that landed in the Orioles bullpen in left-center. Flaherty’s fifth homer of the season – which reliever Luis Ayala caught with his cap – was the Orioles’ 112th homer of the season at home, second-most in Camden Yards history (the 1996 team his 121).
Johnson, a St. Paul’s grad making his first start in almost a month, held the Blue Jays to three hits — all singles — while striking out six and walking three.
It was the 25-year-old rookie’s third major league start, and his first since Aug. 25, when he held the Jays to two runs on four hits over six innings. In three major league starts, Johnson is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 17 innings. He’s held opposing hitters to a .200 batting average in those starts.
“I had real good stuff. I just wasn't able to command the ball that well at least for the first couple innings,” Johnson said. “I was able to minimize the damage and put a couple zeros up there. You knew if you keep doing that, we have the type of team that is just going to put up runs at some point. It was nice to be able to do that.”
Johnson walked the first two batters he faced in the first, then struck out Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion — Johnson struck out the Jays’ home-run leader three times — got Adam Lind to ground out to first and induced a pop up from Rajai Davis.
The Blue Jays scored a run in the eighth on Davis’ two-out RBI double off Tommy Hunter. But with two on and the tying run at the plate, right-hander Darren O’Day struck out Kelly Johnson swinging to end the threat.
Closer Jim Johnson extended his single-season club save mark to 48 with a scoreless ninth, ending the game by striking out Anthony Gose swinging.