Adam Jones began the season by hitting a game-winning home run in the 11th inning. He ended it by walking off the field to a standing ovation.
In between opening day and the season finale, there was a whole lot of anguish for Jones and the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles closed out a trying season Sunday with a salute to Jones and a 4-0 victory over the Houston Astros that could end up serving as a parting gift to manager Buck Showalter.
Jimmy Yacabonis, Paul Fry (1-2) and Mychal Givens combined on a one-hitter against the AL West champions, who open the playoffs at home Friday against Cleveland.
Baltimore finished at 47-115, the most losses in franchise history and the most for a big league team since Detroit’s 119 in 2003. The Orioles were only the fifth team since 1900 to lose 115 or more.
#Birdland gives @SimplyAJ10 a standing ovation as he takes the field by himself for possibly the final time as an Oriole.Soak it in, pimp. pic.twitter.com/1rQS5jtwxt
Baltimore is already in full rebuilding mode, which means the 33-year-old Jones and Showalter may not be back.
“These decisions aren’t mine anymore,” Jones said. “It’s going to be fun.”
When it came time for the Orioles to take the field before the game, Jones went out alone while players from both sides applauded and the fans stood and cheered.
“My teammates sending me out there on an island by myself, I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Jones said. “Weird, because I’m never on the field by myself.”
Jones started in center field, the position he held from 2008 until he was bumped to right field in August by 23-year-old rookie Cedric Mullins.
Many in the crowd of 24,916 stood before each at-bat by Jones, who went 0 for 4.
In the top of the ninth, Showalter sent Joey Rickard in to replace Jones , who received yet another standing ovation as he jogged off the field. Upon his arrival in the dugout, the chain of hugs and high-fives ended with his arms wrapped around Showalter.
“It’s been a great run,” Jones said. “Go somewhere and see what the next chapter of my career is.”
Hired by Orioles owner Peter Angelos in 2010, Showalter — like Jones — has a contract that expires this year and may not be renewed.
“Mr. Angelos’ family has been great to me and mine,” Showalter said before the game. “So whatever direction they decide to go, I’m at peace with it.”
Houston manager A.J. Hinch rested most of his regulars, making sure they’re fresh for the postseason. Charlie Morton started and worked three innings, allowing just one hit in a performance that showed he’s ready to be a factor in the playoffs.
“He was good. It was nice him go back out there,” Hinch said. “I think cleared his conscience a little bit that he could let it go and everything was going to be OK.”
Morton struck out four to finish with 201, making the Astros the fifth team in baseball history to have three pitchers with 200 Ks. The others were the 2018 Indians, 2013 Tigers, 1969 Astros and 1967 Twins.
Brad Peacock (3-5) gave up four runs in the fourth inning, getting only one out.
Houston’s only hit came in the fourth, when Jose Altuve hit a sharp single to right before leaving for a pinch runner.
The defending World Series champion Astros finished 103-59 and have won a collective 204 regular-season games over the last two years.
WHITTLING THE ROSTER
Hinch shaved five players off his projected playoff roster, with more cuts to come.
Right-hander Dean Deetz, OF Kyle Tucker and LHP Reymin Guduan had their seasons end Sunday. Pitchers Framber Valdez and Cionel Perez will work at the team’s spring training facility.
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was rested Sunday after an abbreviated appearance Saturday that indicated he was no longer bothered by back soreness.
“I don’t think we can forget he’s a really good player, and really good players step up when you need them the most,” Hinch said. “We’re going to need that starting Friday.”
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis sat out the entire series and finished with a .168 batting average, lowest in major league history by a qualifier.
The previous record was .177, by Rob Deer in 1991 and Dan Uggla in 2013.
The Orioles drew 1,564,192 for 78 home dates, their lowest figure in a non-strike season since 1978.
“It’s up to us to give them something they want to embrace,” Showalter said. “Attendance is down. It’s our fault, not theirs.”
Astros: Hinch hasn’t announced his rotation for the playoffs, but Justin Verlander is the likely starter in Game 1.
Orioles: The 2019 season opener will be at Yankee Stadium on March 28.
Source: The Associated Press