NEW YORK — Adam Jones called it a routine play. The Orioles center fielder wouldn’t blame it on the cold or the wind or the rain. Regardless of the conditions, he said it was a play he’s made before countless times.
“Just missed it,” Jones said. “Trust me, wish I could do it again, but hey, I missed it.”
Jones’ drop of a seventh-inning fly ball to deep center was a costly three-run error in the Orioles’ 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees before an announced 35,033 Friday night. But it wasn’t the only reason why the Orioles lost.
On a bone-chilling night in the Bronx – it was 42 degrees at first pitch but only got colder – the Orioles issued eight free passes (six walks and two hit batters), with five of them scoring.
"It's a tough, tough night to play,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I think 'raw' is the word for both sides, and one of those games you've really got to try to figure a way. We came real close there. Came back and tied it up. We did some good things. I'll dwell on those without becoming blind to some things we've got to get better at."
But after the game, Jones stood in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse of Yankee Stadium – where the Orioles won six of nine games last season – and took the blame.
With the bases loaded and two out in the seventh inning of a 2-2 game, reliever Pedro Strop induced a high fly ball to center off the bat of Vernon Wells. Jones retreated and reached over his left shoulder to catch the ball, but it hit off the heel of his glove and popped out, clearing the bases.
“I was there,” Jones said, “didn’t catch it. I cost my team the game. Trust me, it’s quite frustrating when you make a mistake like that big in the game, late in the game. You just cost your team the game. It’s not a good feeling, but the good thing about baseball is you show up tomorrow with a better plan.
“Sometimes you’re the hero. Sometimes you’re the goat. Today I was the [goat].”
Making matters worse, the Orioles grounded into an unconventional of triple play in the next half inning.
With runners on first and second with no outs, Manny Machado hit a grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano, who threw to second for a force out. Shortstop Jayson Nix then threw to third, where the Yankees caught Alexi Casilla in a rundown, then they threw back to second to get Machado.
The play was scored 4-6-5-6-5-3-4.
It was the first time the Orioles hit into a triple play since April 3, 1996, when Bobby Bonilla hit into one of the 5-4-3-2 variety against the Kansas City Royals.
After the game, Machado -- who had two hits and drove in the Orioles' first run with a third-inning single -- said he was overly aggressive on the play.
“We’re down by three. I should have stayed at first," Machado said. "It was just in the heat of the moment, things that you don’t think about at that moment. It just happens.”
The numbing cold made it difficult for Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez to get a good grip on the ball, and it made his curveball a non-factor. Gonzalez, who had 25 strikeouts and just one walk in three starts at Yankee Stadium last year, battled with his control all night.
Three of his five walks – including two leadoff walks to No. 9 hitter Francisco Cervelli – came around to score. He also hit a batter.
But Gonzalez still gave the Orioles a chance to win, allowing three runs (two earned) in six-plus innings with five hits and four strikeouts.
“The grip was tough to handle, but no excuses,” Gonzalez said. “I battled. I did my best. I tried to keep my team in the game. … I don’t think anyone likes to walk guys, so it was a tough night for me. It is what it is. I tried to battle as best I can when I was out there, and we made good plays when we needed to. Things just happen.”
The Orioles tallied eight hits against CC Sabathia, but they scored just two runs against New York’s ace left-hander. Sabathia struck out nine, including five straight in one span, and he induced two key double-play balls off the bat of Jones. The Orioles had just one extra-base hit off Sabathia, a third-inning double by Casilla.
“He keeps the score low,” Jones said of Sabathia. “He doesn’t allow a lot of guys to get on base. He doesn’t allow a lot of guys to cross home plate. We can play. We can do some things against him. It wasn’t easy, but we fought back to get one run, then we fought back to get two. Big mistake by myself cost us the game.”
Gonzalez left the game after walking Cervelli to open the seventh inning. Lefty Troy Patton came on to retire left-handed hitters Brett Gardner and Cano, but Cervelli moved to third. The Orioles intentionally walked Kevin Youkilis, who had three hits on the night, and Patton plunked Travis Hafner on a 3-2 pitch that got away to load the bases.
Strop then entered to face Wells, who lifted a 2-0 fastball high in the zone to center, but Jones dropped it two steps shy of the wall.
Machado said Jones, a franchise cornerstone who has emerged as a team leader at the age of 27, didn’t say anything when he came into the dugout at the end of the inning.
But he didn’t have to, Machado said.
“It hurts,” Machado said. “They scored three runs and went ahead. But you know, what he’s a leader of this team and he’s going to go out there and always fight. He’s always fighting with us, fighting till the end. He came out there and stayed mentally strong and was pushing us in the dugout. So, things happen. Errors happen. And it’s all part of the game.”