Jones lifts O's, Norris in San Diego homecoming
Center fielder goes 4-for-4; righty wins second straight start since trade
SAN DIEGO -- Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, a San Diego native who still lives in the area in the offseason, made it a homecoming to remember Tuesday night.
Jones turned in his first four-hit night of the season in a two-RBI game, including a solo homer, to lead Baltimore (62-51) to a much-needed 4-1 series-opening victory to begin a critical three-city West Coast road trip. Playing at Petco Park for the first time since 2010, the Orioles -- swept at home earlier this season -- picked up their first win in three tries over the Padres and remained in the thick of the American League playoff picture.
The victory, in front of an Oriole-heavy crowd of 28,055, put the third-place O's a game back in the AL Wild Card race -- along with Cleveland -- and six behind the AL East-leading Red Sox.
"We have to control what we can control and if we rack up the W's, we are going to give ourselves the best chance," Jones said of what the Orioles have to do to punch their second consecutive playoff ticket. "The cool part about it is we are going to run into Tampa [Bay] and Boston in September, so we just want to give ourselves [a chance] when September 1 [comes] -- everybody is close -- and run the gauntlet."
Coming off a disappointing 4-5 homestand, which included series losses to Boston and Seattle, the Orioles used Jones' fabulous night at the plate and another solid outing from starter Bud Norris to get back on track with fewer than 50 games remaining in the regular season.
"It's been great to come over with a ballclub that's in a pennant race and focused on winning," said Norris, acquired from the last-place Astros in last Wednesday's Trade Deadline deal. "This is such a great organization, top to bottom, so I'm going to do what I've been doing, which is throw strikes and let the guys play defense. I feel really comfortable with [catcher Matt] Wieters behind the plate. He's definitely making the transition a lot easier and these guys can swing the bats. Our focus is winning and that's where my focus is, too."
Jones put the Orioles up immediately off Padres starter Edinson Volquez with a single to center after Nate McLouth delivered a game-opening double and extended his career high in stolen bases to 26 with a swipe of third. Jones pushed the lead to two in the fourth with his 23rd homer of the year, jumping on Volquez's first-pitch changeup and sending it an estimated 368 feet into the left-field stands.
"Adam put together a big night," said manager Buck Showalter of Jones, who has an extra-base hit in four consecutive games. "His two-out RBIs are always a momentum change."
Norris made sure the pendulum didn't swing back to San Diego, picking up his second win in as many tries in a Baltimore uniform with a quality six-inning outing. He stranded a runner on third with no outs in each of the first two innings and settled in after that, limiting San Diego to 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
"He goes after people," Jones said of Norris. "And this team, you see it in our eyes, we are all competitors. We don't like to give anything away. And he's fit right into the mold of this team. No nonsense, get the job done and no excuses, and he's given us a big lift these two starts."
Chris Denorfia opened the bottom of the sixth with a single off Norris, the first of three consecutive San Diego hits that resulted in the Padres' lone run. Pitching coach Rick Adair came out to talk to Norris after Yonder Alonso's RBI and he navigated out of further damage, striking out Jedd Gyorko and stranding runners on second and third after a deep fly ball and a popup.
"For the most part, [he was] doing a good job locating his fastball, he was working quite quick," said Alonso of Norris, who has won three consecutive outings against the Padres. "His secondary stuff was pretty good, too. Today was one of those days where he had all his pitches going and it was a battle."
Norris, who struck out five, allowed just the sixth-inning run before handing the ball over to the Orioles' bullpen, improving to 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA in five career starts against San Diego.
"He made a lot of good pitches," Showalter said. "Sometimes, you wiggle out of those situations and you're just fortunate. He made a lot of good pitches in those first two innings. To hold it at 2-1, that was more impressive. He was starting to elevate the ball a little bit. He found a way to get through that one."
Right-hander Tommy Hunter pitched around a two-out walk in the seventh while lefty Brian Matusz struck out Chase Headley and exited after Alonso's single in the eighth, with Darren O'Day getting a double-play ball from Gyorko to end the frame.
Jones, who also singled in the sixth, picked up his fourth hit of the night off reliever Luke Gregerson two outs into the eighth. After picking up his 10th steal of the season in a swipe of second base, Chris Davis doubled him in to put the Orioles back up by two. Manny Machado's ninth-inning single with two outs added an insurance tally.
Closer Jim Johnson picked up his 39th save of the season to put the finishing touches on the win.