Adam Jones' 9th-inning homer off Mariano Rivera gives Orioles a 2-1 win over Yankees

July 07, 2013|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK — Orioles center fielder Adam Jones says he doesn’t know what his statistics are against opposing pitchers, so when he walked to the plate in the ninth inning Sunday he didn’t realize he had just two singles and four strikeouts in 10 previous at-bats against the best closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera.

After launching a one-out, two-run home run over the left field wall to give the Orioles an eventual 2-1 victory, stun the screaming, announced crowd of 40,218 and stop the New York Yankees from competing a three-game sweep, Jones admitted he won’t be forgetting that plate appearance against Rivera anytime soon.

“It’s off the greatest closer in the history of the game. I’ll always remember it,” said Jones, who hadn’t homered since June 18 against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. “You’ve got to win, and we haven’t been playing that well. We need to tighten up. We need to clean it up around here. Need to play better baseball as a team, as a unit.”

The Orioles (49-40) were two outs away from their third, three-game sweep by a division rival this season. Instead, they won for just the second time in a six-game road trip to Chicago and New York and dropped the Yankees (48-40) into fourth place in the American League East – just one-half game behind the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, who are currently tied for second.

“We know what division we're in. We know what teams we're facing. We know what we're up against,” said right fielder Nick Markakis, who had three of the Orioles’ six hits Sunday, including a single in the ninth against Rivera to set up Jones’ heroics. “We've got to battle. It's a long season. We play a lot of games against these guys, a lot of games against these teams in this division. Everybody's good.”

The Yankees and Orioles won’t face each other again until Aug. 30, when they’ll then play seven times in a span of two weeks.

After splitting 18 games with the Yankees in 2012 (and losing three of five to them in the American League Division Series), the Orioles are now up 7-5 in this season’s series. Of those 12 contests, 11 have been decided by three runs or fewer and five were one-run games, including all three this weekend.

“These games that we play in the division, those are a little bit more important because the way the playoffs are structured,” said closer Jim Johnson, who rebounded from his sixth blown save Friday with a perfect ninth Sunday. “You have to win your division to guarantee at least a series, so we’ll see where we are and we’ve got to keep trusting what we are doing, stay healthy and play good baseball.”

Heading into the ninth Sunday, only one run was scored – on a sacrifice fly by Eduardo Nunez in the second against Orioles starter Jason Hammel, who threw 102 pitches in five innings while battling the sweltering Bronx heat. Still, Hammel nearly matched zeroes with Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda, who allowed just three hits and a walk in seven shutout innings.

“Honestly, I felt I threw the ball pretty well,” said Hammel, who gave up six hits and two walks in his fourth no-decision in his past five outings. “Didn’t get deep into the game for the fact that they fouled off a lot of pitches.”

Rookie reliever T.J. McFarland, who had been battling a head cold all day and hadn’t pitched in a game since June 28, took over from Hammel and threw two hitless innings.

"I just found out he was sick as a dog today. Nobody told me,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of McFarland. “One of his bullpen-mates said, 'I don't know how he even got to the mound today.' Gave him a little better sinker, I guess.”

Troy Patton and Darren O’Day (5-0) combined for a scoreless eighth to match Yankees’ set-up man David Robertson. All the Yankees needed was a clean inning from Rivera, the likely first ballot Hall of Famer, to extend their season-best winning streak to seven games.

“Any time you're sitting there with Robertson and Rivera, you don't like your chances,” Showalter said. “But there was a good vibe in the dugout. The guys were grinding. And it's tough. Very challenging conditions.”

The 43-year-old Rivera has recorded more saves and games pitched against the Orioles than any other club in baseball. But he’s also lost more games to the Orioles – eight before Sunday – than to any other team.

With one out Markakis singled to center to make him 3-for-4 on the day after he learned he had not been selected for his first All-Star game, much to the disappointment of many of his teammates.

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