NEW YORK - Adam Jones delivered his seventh career go-ahead home run today in the ninth inning or later, and his first since Sept. 19, 2012 at Seattle.
This one came against Mariano Rivera and gave the Orioles a 2-1 victory over the Yankees.
Considering the circumstances, how big was it?
“It’s off the greatest closer in the history of the game. I’ll always remember it,” he said.
“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.”
Jones needs to get hot. He’s been struggling.
“You go through those at the plate,” he said. “I’m just trying to stay aggressive, trying to stay positive. The video that went viral of me soft-tossing my helmet, the hardest hit until today, the last 10 days. It’s a constant grind, and we’ve got the right guys in here who love to grind and just love that attitude, and have the right attitude. It’s a long season. We’re just going to have to bring it every day. It’s not easy, but that’s just what we have to do.”
Jones had no idea that he was 2-for-10 vs. Rivera before today.
“I don’t even know my numbers against anybody,” he said. “Go up there, and I’m either going to be 0-for-1 or 1-for-1 after this at-bat. I don’t really know my stats against people. I’m sure you know.”
Rivera’s last blown save in the Bronx occurred on Sept. 26, 2010 against the Red Sox. He hadn’t allowed a home run here since Aug. 11, 2011 against Russell Branyan.
Nick Markakis, omitted from the All-Star Game, had three hits today, including a single off Rivera before Jones came to the plate.
“He’s one of the guys that I’ve seen bring it for six years, every single day,” Jones said. “He’s one of the guys that I’d give up my spot for. He’s one of the guys that I’ve seen year-in, year-out earn it. I’m not saying other people haven’t, but he’s one guy that earns it. He brings it every day. He can flat out hit. He can flat out play the game. Plays a great right field. He was the catalyst of it today.”
Players are hesitant to refer to one game as big, especially before the break, but there’s no denying the importance of avoiding a sweep in the Bronx.
“It’s definitely big,” Markakis said. “You don’t want to go out there and get swept, especially by teams like this in your division. It shows you what our team is made of. We’re going to play every out until the end.”
As for his hit off Rivera, Markakis said, “I was trying not to do too much. Just go up there with a good approach. Let the ball come to me and hit it where it’s pitched. It was hot out there today, a lot hotter than yesterday. That’s part of baseball. You’ve got to deal with the conditions, whether it’s hot or cold or windy. We did a good job staying in there until the whole game.
“Those are situations you’re going to deal with. The game’s not over. Down 0-2, I’m just looking to make contact there. I wasn’t trying to do too much. Like I’ve said, I just thought he was trying to get it out there a little further, and it caught more plate.
“That’s the good thing about this team. You get on base, and you’ve got those guys hitting behind you. Good things happen.”
Jim Johnson made sure it didn’t go to waste by recording his 30th save in routine fashion after blowing his sixth save Friday night.
“Obviously, that’s what you want,” Johnson said. “You want the ball as soon as possible. Try to redeem yourself and get yourself back into a groove. Obviously, you look at the game and you could tell the way it was, 1-0, a bad situation to be in. And Jonesy comes up. Nick, obviously, gets it started. Jonesy with the big home run. Kind of reminiscent of last year, it felt like.”
Johnson was asked whether he felt different on the mound today or if the results were simply better.
“There was a little bit of difference,” he said. “I felt like I was more aggressive with my fastball today and located a lot better. I think that’s been a big difference today than the other couple days.”
It’s unusual for Johnson to record strikeouts. That’s not his style.
“No, strikeouts, they usually happen by accident with me,” he said. “I’ll take the ground balls. We have a great defense for a reason, and I’m usually trying to force contact and make them hit it toward our Gold Glover up the middle. Let them do the work. But strikeouts are usually by accident.
“I’ll take the 1-2-3 and I’m sure Buck enjoys it. A little less stress for him.”