After the Orioles had blown a 2-0 lead in the ninth and then failed to score with the bases loaded and one out in the 10th, it was looking like opening day might end badly.
Then one swing changed all of that.
Center fielder Adam Jones blasted the first pitch of the last of the 11th over the left-field fence for a 3-2 walk-off win over the Minnesota Twins. It was the Orioles’ eighth straight win in an opener and the third year in a row they won via a walk-off hit.
To hear him tell it, catcher Caleb Joseph was not surprised how it ended and who did the trick.
“Perfect spot for the perfect guy,” Joseph said. “It was almost surreal. Adam has been such a huge part of this team for, what, 11 years now? Adam has been the heart and soul of our team. So proud to be his teammate.”
Making his 11th opening day start for the club, Jones hit a first-pitch 92 mph fastball from Fernando Rodney. It’s his third career walk-off homer, but first since June 9, 2012 against Philadelphia.
“I knew it was gone off the bat,” Jones said. “Lot going on. My little boys are here to come watch me. I’ve got my whole family here for support. It’s important. Big opening day. Glad we got the win and it’s cool that I was able to get a big hit.
“It was a beautiful game. Obviously, we wanted to win it in nine, but I can’t see anybody complaining about a win. No matter how late you have to go and get it.”
In his 11 opening day games, Jones is a career .341 (15-for-44) hitter with six doubles, a triple, two homers and eight RBIs.
“Each one is more and more special,” he said. “Because it shows that I’ve been able to maintain and stay in the big leagues. Each one is more and more important. I think this one is probably more important because my kids can understand a little better and that’s who I play for.”
A reporter wondered if Jones, a pending free agent, would have a 12th opening day with the Orioles.
“Who knows? But right now I’m here and it’s awesome. Happy about that,” he said.
“I was expecting something. I’m glad they are continuing our legacy with that. I won’t complain about it,” Jones.
Right-hander Dylan Bundy threw seven scoreless in the win with a no decision. He allowed five singles with one walk and seven strikeouts. He got 12 swings and misses on his 24 sliders. This was his third career start where he has thrown seven or more innings without allowing a run.
Joseph’s two-run triple in the seventh made it 2-0 Orioles until Minnesota tied it in the ninth off Brad Brach. That all set the stage for Jones’ winning homer as the Orioles improved to 43-22 all-time on opening day and 8-0 under manager Buck Showalter.
More clubhouse quotes:
Joseph on Bundy’s outing: “He mixed all of his pitches, all of them. Had the sinker going, good hard four-seam. Threw a lot of nice quality curveballs. The slider was tremendous. Probably didn’t throw as many changeups as we wanted to, but the ones he threw were really good. Didn’t make many mistakes and went seven innings. What else could you ask for? He deserved the win, but glad we got it in the end.”
Joseph with more on Bundy: “He is just the perfect guy for this type of game. He’s got the fuel and fire inside, but you don’t see it. When it comes out of his hand, you can feel it and see it. Hopefully, the guys behind him follow suit. I’m sure they will. What a great way to start the season.”
Joseph on his two-run triple: “That guy in right field (Max Kepler) was playing me like 285 (feet). Made me angry. Playing me like I’m a Little Leaguer. I saw what he did with Craig (Gentry) before that. The shadows were nasty. I’ll be honest. I didn’t really see the ball and it just hit my bat. I’m going to go play the lottery after the game. But I was able to just put good wood on it and I was running until they stopped me.”
Bundy on what made his start so good: “I think just the mixing of the pitches. Me and Caleb had a good game plan and we were able to execute. That first inning, I was leaving the ball up and got lucky on some loud outs. And then Craig robs that homer. That was an impressive play out there.”
Bundy on whether he was calm today:: “I think everyone will admit that there were some butterflies there. But after that foul ball that (Brian) Dozier hit, they kind of got out of the way. And I was calm, just like any other start after that.”
Bundy on the victory: “It’s huge. Exciting to win the home opener. Doesn’t matter who gets the win as long as the team does.”
Gentry on his homer-robbing catch in the second: “Off the bat, I was tracking it. Kind of an instinctual thing. Just kind of ended up in the glove. You know, it was a big moment in the game and I’m definitely excited I was able to make the play and be part of opening day.”
Gentry on the feeling in making such a play?: “It’s a good feeling. To be honest, I had a lot of chills going and kind of wanted to run through a wall or something like that. Pretty enjoyable. I’ve only robbed a few home runs, but that’s up there for sure.”