Before the last game of the season got under way, the greatest Oriole of the 21st century stood alone on the field, teammates applauding him from the dugout step and fans standing to recognize the chapter that appears all but certain to come to an end.
As the Orioles took the field a couple of hours later, with a 4-0 lead in the top of the ninth inning, Adam Jones took a spot out in center field one last time before being pulled from the game to the the same standing ovation, getting hugs from every teammate he came across on the way back into the dugout.
If you were watching either of these moments and becoming a bit verklempt, you were hardly the only one. Both before and after the game, even MASN’s Jim Palmer got a bit choked up as he talked about what Jones has meant to the team for the past decade. It is difficult to imagine an Orioles future without him.
Between those two moments, the worst Orioles team that has ever been seen pulled its way towards one final victory in a year that has not seen very many. The final record is 47-115, a record that remains unbelievable to me even after all of the bad Orioles baseball that I have watched this season. So much has to go wrong in so many ways for things to end up that way.
The good news is that it’s finally over. The 2018 Orioles will lose no more. Next is the uncertain future, always a scary thing to contemplate. It wasn’t only Jones who has likely been around for the last time. Manager Buck Showalter might have been at the helm for the final game of his distinguished tenure as well. Even Orioles like Caleb Joseph and Tim Beckham might have played their last games here.
No one really knows what is next for any of these guys. For O’s fans there might be a strange sort of optimism, at least, in that it will be very, very hard for the team to be worse than this. Even teams that don’t begin the season with very high hopes, where everyone expects them to be bad, are not THIS bad.
The final game was almost a sideshow compared to all of that. The game itself was nice. If the Orioles had played more like this, they would not have finished 47-115. Perhaps their opponent, the Astros, were not supremely motivated in contesting the outcome. Nonetheless, if you hold any MLB team to just one hit and two walks over a whole game, you have done something good.
That was the accomplishment of the O’s pitching staff today. Jimmy Yacabonis, whose year was a constant yo-yo between Norfolk and Baltimore, drew the start for the closing game of the season. Yacabonis tossed 50 pitches over four innings and gave up all of the baserunners - the hit, the walks, a hit by pitch.
Following him was Paul Fry, who retired all nine batters he faced, and Mychal Givens, who retired the last six Astros batters to finish things off.
If it wasn’t for all the emotion of the farewell to Jones, the game would have been about as boring of a baseball game as you can get. Even their run-scoring was confined to one single inning, as it feels like has happened so many times before now this year. The difference on this occasion was that since the pitching staff put up goose eggs, the four runs the O’s plated could hold up.
Also like so many other games this season, the Orioles did not score any runs off of the other team’s starter. Another difference here is that the postseason-bound Charlie Morton, whose wife gave birth to the couple’s fourth child on Thursday, pitched just three innings. The O’s then immediately ambushed Astros reliever Brad Peacock in the fourth inning.
Starting with Jonathan Villar, five of the first six O’s batters in the inning got base hits. The only one who made an out in this sequence was Jones, who took an 0-4 on the day. He could not find one last bit of theater in his storied O’s career - not that he needed any more to make it a superlative one.
During the pre-game activities, Jones emerged from the dugout and took a lap around the field handing out balls, bats, and batting gloves to random fans. This came after he and the O’s made a joint $150,000 contribution to a variety of local nonprofit organizations this past week. He is the best. We have been lucky to get to watch him on our favorite baseball team.
After Villar led off that bottom of the fourth with a double, Trey Mancini drove him in with a single. Beckham added a double of his own to score Mancini, then scored in turn on Renato Nunez’s double. DJ Stewart added an infield single, which brought an end to Peacock’s final tune-up before the postseason. He entered a 0-0 game and left a 3-0 game. Stewart stole second base and Astros catcher Max Stassi committed a throwing error on the play, allowing Nunez to score the fourth Orioles run.
That was it. That was the game. The Astros did not get another runner on base after that. The Orioles only had two hits the rest of the way. There was no need for anyone to drag anything out, and they didn’t. This horrendous baseball season is finally over. May we never see its like again.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for September 30, 2018?
This poll is closed
A. LaMarque Jones