Adam Jones coming through in the clutch is nothing strange for Orioles fans who have been watching him for years. On Friday night, he came through for the American team in the World Baseball Classic in extra innings, delivering a walkoff hit against a tenacious Colombian team that made the MLB-laden USA roster sweat.
With two outs in the tenth inning, right before weird international rules for 11+ inning games were about to take effect, Jones came to bat with runners on second and third, facing a reliever, Guillermo Moscoso, who hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2013. Moscoso had walked both Christian Yelich and Brandon Crawford to get a tenth inning rally started.
Jones being Jones, he was quickly facing an 0-2 count and fouled off a few pitches. There was no concern about Moscoso throwing balls. Jones was finding strikes where there were none. But that’s what he always does and when it works, it works. Moscoso gave Jones a pitch that he could let rip and let it rip he did, lining the ball into left field to drive in the game-ending run.
Jones stayed hungry this time:
For his heroics, Jones received a traditional bath from the Gatorade cooler. Not as good as a pie, but better than nothing.
Jones became just the second American player with a walkoff hit in WBC competition. According to ESPN’s Stats and Info, Jones last delivered a walkoff in MLB play in 2012.
It’s fair to say that not all, or even many, of the best American baseball players are on the team for the WBC, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see the Colombian team take the Americans into extra innings.
Maybe it shouldn’t have been so much of a surprise, though, because a big part of why the game stayed close was Colombia’s starting pitcher, White Sox starter Jose Quintana, who has been on the trade block off and on throughout the offseason.
Quintana showed why on Friday night, pitching into the sixth inning before even giving up a hit. It’s easy not to have to worry about a lack of MLB-caliber depth on a pitching staff if a good MLB pitcher is going into the sixth inning.
For a short while, the Colombian team even led the game. USA starter Chris Archer was out after four innings, as expected for early March. Archer had not allowed a hit when he left the game, the longest that a WBC game had ever gone before its first hit.
Starting in the fifth inning, it was time for the USA to start summoning a parade of relievers, beginning with Orioles reliever Mychal Givens. After getting two outs, Givens surrendered back-to-back-to-back doubles into the cavernous outfield in Marlins Stadium in Miami, putting the Americans in a 2-0 hole against the Colombians.
That’s where things stayed until the bottom of the sixth inning when the USA team finally put together a rally. A two out single by Crawford marked the end of Quintana’s night.
Reliever William Cuevas, a 26-year-old with all of three MLB games under his belt, was tasked with holding down the top of the USA lineup. He could not do so. Second baseman Ian Kinsler added a single and Jones drove in the USA’s first run with a single of his own. One batter later, Nolen Arenado struck out but ended up reaching safely on a wild pitch on the third strike, allowing Kinsler to score the tying run.
That’s where things stayed until extra frames. The USA had a prime chance in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Yelich led off with a double, but they could not push a run across. That included Jones striking out with men on first and third and just one out.
Safe to say that Jones made up for it in the end. He’s one of just a small number of returning players from the last WBC squad from the USA, and in their opening game on Friday, he drove in two of the three runs as they won. A win is a win, any way you can get it.
The big one is coming tomorrow when the USA takes on the powerhouse Dominican Republic team. A Sunday matchup against Canada also awaits. If the USA can win one of the next two, they will probably advance to the next round. The DR team will be a tough task and as tonight’s game proves, they can’t overlook even a less talented team like Canada. They’ll still have Adam Jones, so hopefully they’ll be OK.