CLEVELAND – Orioles center fielder Adam Jones isn’t one to swallow his opinion, but after the Orioles lost 2-1 in 11 innings Friday night on a walk-off home run by Cleveland Indians third baseman Mike Aviles, Jones carefully measured his words.
“I plead the fifth. I think being smart in what you say will help you in the long run,” said Jones, who was involved in a controversial hit-by-pitch call in the eighth inning. “I’d rather take the high road tonight and … I’d just rather take the high road.”
The Orioles (69-51) and Indians (61-60) were locked in a 1-1 pitchers’ duel when Aviles led off the bottom of the 11th by smacking a curveball from Orioles lefty Brian Matusz (2-3) over the left field wall for his first career game-winning homer.
“Us as relievers, we take a lot of pride in getting guys out and giving us the chance to win a ballgame,” said Matusz, who retired the final batter of the 10th to extend the game. “With Aviles, 1-2 curveball, wanted to bounce it on the plate right there, ended up giving a little bit up and he put a good swing on it. In those situations it’s no fun being on this side of it, but you learn from your mistakes, make better pitches and move forward.”
The game ended on Aviles’ swing, but the Orioles felt like they had a chance to really build momentum in the eighth when a call went against them.
With one out and Cleveland starter Corey Kluber humming along in another impressive outing, Jones attempted to drop a bunt. As he tried to pull the bat away, Kluber’s 93 mph fastball struck Jones’ right hand, cutting his finger.
The pitch was ruled a foul ball, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out to argue – and eventually asked for a review of the play. Several minutes passed as Kluber stood at the mound waiting while Jones had his finger wrapped by athletic trainer Richie Bancells.
Showalter said the review came back that Jones was struck by the pitch, which means he should have been awarded first base. But first base umpire Ron Kulpa said that he already had ruled Jones offered at the pitch. That makes it a foul – since check swings aren’t reviewable. And that irked Showalter, who felt like the challenge was a waste of everyone’s time.
“You can challenge (hit-by-pitch) and we were right. That’s why, the challenge was never lost. We were right on the challenge, but when they went back to the screen Kulpa said he’s got him offering at the pitch, which is not reviewable,” Showalter said. “I wish they had said that (initially), would have saved us all a lot of time. That’s why they had it wrong. Should probably get an explanation before they review it.”
Cleveland manager Terry Francona also was miffed by the delay, mainly because Kluber, who was nearing the end of his outing, was stuck waiting.
“I thought that was handled poorly,” Francona said about the umpires’ decision to review the play when, ultimately, a check swing can’t be. “It shouldn't have been challenged.”
Francona also wondered whether Showalter was participating in gamesmanship to alter Kluber’s rhythm.
“Freeze the kicker? You'd have to ask him. I don't know,” Francona said. “Regardless of what is being said, because I'm not privy to that because I'm not out there, I don't think (the umpires) can allow that to happen.”
Jones returned to the batter’s box and grounded out. As he made his turn from first base to the dugout he jawed at Kulpa. Jones and Showalter wouldn’t elaborate on what was said.
“Jonesy is an emotional guy, he wants to win,” Showalter said. “I’m sure he felt like the guy at first had something to do with him not being at first base.”
Nelson Cruz followed with a two out single that chased Kluber, who left the mound to a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 27,845.
The Orioles then rallied against Cleveland reliever Bryan Shaw. Delmon Young singled and J.J. Hardy, who had missed three games with a thumb injury, followed with a RBI single to score Cruz and tie the game at 1-1. Ryan Flaherty then hit a fly out to end the inning.
The Orioles couldn’t score again, losing for just the ninth time in 26 games since the All-Star Break while falling to 12-5 in extra-inning games. The loss also snapped their majors’ best streak of eight consecutive series in which they won the opener. They hadn’t done that nine straight times since 1995-96. The last time they had done it in one season was 1985.
With the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees both losing Friday, however, the Orioles maintain a 7 ½ game lead in the American League East.
Friday night’s game was punctuated by outstanding starting pitching from both sides.