Adam Jones has waited his entire career to be in a pennant race, and he’s making the most of it.
Jones went 4 for 4 with a homer and two RBI, and the Baltimore Orioles moved within a half-game of the AL East lead with a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday in the opener of a doubleheader.
Ryan Flaherty hit a solo shot for the Orioles, who matched the division-leading New York Yankees in the win column (88). New York was scheduled to play at Minnesota on Monday night.
The victory also solidified Baltimore’s grasp on the top AL wild-card slot over Oakland.
Jones’ four hits tied a career high. He has hit safely in 18 of 22 games in September, with six home runs and 13 RBI.
”Adam relishes competition,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ”He’s obviously had a heck of a year. He’s turning into quite a player.”
Asked if Jones deserves consideration for AL MVP, Showalter replied, ”This team, we haven’t really thought about that type of stuff yet. That will be fodder when our work’s done here.”
Now in his seventh season, Jones has already set a career high with 32 homers, and his two runs scored put him over 100 for the first time. After enjoying his fifth multi-RBI game this month, the All-Star center fielder needs to drive in three more runs to eclipse his previous high of 83, set last year.
Orioles rookie Steve Johnson (4-0) allowed three hits over five shutout innings to lower his ERA to 1.62. Half his big league wins have come against Toronto.
Although the Jays got two runners on base in three of the first four innings, Johnson worked out of trouble on each occasion.
”When you do that, you have to make a pitch in there, just bear down, throw a few pitches, make sure they don’t make good contact on it,” he said.
Jim Johnson, the fifth Baltimore pitcher, worked the ninth for his 48th save in 51 opportunities.
It was the seventh straight loss for the Blue Jays, matching a season high. Toronto has been outscored 46-17 during the skid, which began during a three-trip to Yankee Stadium and continued in Tampa Bay.
”We can’t run from what’s taking place, and yet we have to continue to battle,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
Henderson Alvarez (9-14) gave up four runs, eight hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. He’s 2-7 in his past 10 starts.
Speaking through an interpreter, Alvarez addressed the two homers he yielded by saying, ”Pitch to Jones was high changeup. He’s a good hitter and he did what he was supposed to do with that pitch. The other kid, the second baseman, (I) felt like it was a good pitch and he did a good job with it.”
In the fourth, Chris Davis walked and Jones followed with a drive to left to put Baltimore up 2-0. Flaherty connected in the fifth, and Jones singled in the sixth and came home on a double-play grounder.
Toronto scored in the eighth on an RBI double by Rajai Davis. With runners on second and third and two outs, Darren O’Day came in to strike out Kelly Johnson.
NOTES: Toronto purchased the contracts of RHPs Shawn Hill and Bobby Korecky and transferred LHP J.A. Happ (foot) to the 60-day DL. … Orioles LHP Randy Wolf is experiencing discomfort in his left elbow and will undergo an MRI on Tuesday. … Seventeen of Jones’ HRs have given the Orioles the lead. Baltimore is 23-8 when he homers. … Toronto has lost six straight in Baltimore during a single season for the first time since 1980, and the Orioles won the season series for the first time since 2004.