Adam Jones’ walk-off home run on Thursday afternoon marked the Orioles’ 8th straight Opening Day win and capped off an absolutely awesome day. The 3-2 11th inning win was reminiscent of the past 2 Opening Day games; each of which ended with a walk-off, first a single by Matt Wieters, second a home run by Mark Trumbo. Needless to say, there’s something special about Opening Day, especially in Baltimore.
For Orioles fans, many of which have sat through over a decade of exhausting, brutal losing seasons, Opening Day offers a revived sense of hope – a hope that has, in recent years, become more realistic. This year, as the fanbase is seemingly split with high and low expectations, the O’s victory on Opening Day had everyone leaving happy and excited for the season to come.
While Adam Jones’ late-game heroics were certainly enough to inspire, they should not overshadow what a terrific baseball game was played on Thursday. Jake Odorizzi tossed 6 shutout innings, holding the Orioles to 2 hits, but Dylan Bundy outdid him, going 7 scoreless innings with 7 strikeouts. The two hurlers matched each other pitch for pitch, keeping batters off-balance and fans on the edge of their seats. Every pitch was crucial, like a playoff game. That’s why right-fielder Craig Gentry catch robbing Eddie Rosario of a 2nd-inning home run was not only amazing but also clutch. Then, after 6 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball, Caleb Joseph came through with a 2-out, 2-run triple into the right-centerfield gap, giving the Orioles their first lead of the season. Still, just as the O’s appeared poised to close out their first win of 2018, the Twins stormed back on Brad Brach.
Brach, who opened the season in Zach Britton’s closer role, struggled to find the plate, and eventually surrendered a 2-run, game-tying blooper to pinch-hitter Robbie Grossman. Camden Yards was shocked. All of a sudden the hope that came with the Opening Day spectacle was sucked from the ballpark. That is – until two innings later, when Adam Jones jumped on the first pitch from Fernando Rodney and sent it into the left-field stands.
As the masses filed out of Camden Yards, Adam Jones was everyone’s favorite player, and rightfully so. He is the undeniable leader of the team; he’s been that since his first Opening Day with the O’s 11 seasons ago. As a young adult, he’s been the leader for as long as I remember, and as that, Adam Jones is indispensable. Thursday afternoon showed why. In a game where the offense was struggling to get on base, much less score, the captain was 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. And yet, as the game moved to the bottom of the 11th inning, there was nobody I would have rather had led off. With Adam Jones, you know that at the least, you will get his best effort. He will not go down without a fight; he will not go down without having a good at-bat. All it took was one pitch, but Adam Jones brought everyone to their feet in a hurry. He put the team, and the entire fanbase, on his back, as he usually does, illustrating his importance to the city.
With all the Orioles players set for free agency at the end of this season, one player should be the absolute priority: Adam Jones. For all that he’s done for the Orioles, for his role as the face of the franchise and the face of the franchise’s revival, Adam Jones should be rewarded. He is a lifetime Oriole, and the front office had better make him one.