Adam Jones hit 32 homers and scored 103 runs for the Orioles during his finest regular season to date. Which is pretty hard to believe giving how badly he bombed during the ALDS.
Jones went 2-for-23 against the Yankees and led the world in ugly at-bats. To go along with his six strikeouts, he had three one-pitch at-bats and seven two-pitch at-bats (one of which resulted in a hit). Both of his hits were singles. He never worked a walk. In fact, he hasn’t walked since Sept. 21.
On defense, Jones also had a big miscue in Wednesday’s 12-inning loss, giving the Yankees their first run of the game in the third when he misjudged Derek Jeter’s fly to center. Jones took two steps in before beginning to drift back on a ball that went over his head.
Of course, Jones hardly deserves all of the blame for Baltimore’s troubles scoring. The lineup was full of guys with lousy averages: Manny Machado came in at .125, J.J. Hardy .136, Matt Wieters .150, Mark Reynolds .158 and Chris Davis .200. The fact that the team was without Nick Markakis, whose hand was broken by a CC Sabathia pitch, and Brian Roberts finally ended up doing some damage. Nolan Reimold and Wilson Betemit probably could have helped, too.
But Jones was one of the lineup’s two All-Stars. The guy who signed the six-year, $85.5 million contract back in May. He didn’t even need to carry the load for the team; the pitching did that while holding the Yankees to nine runs over the final four games. He just needed to play like he did in the regular season, and he couldn’t.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.