Jones and the Orioles seek to extend their longest road winning streak in more than 12 years Thursday when they wrap up a two-game series at Kansas City against the Royals.
Jones’ 12 homers are good for a third-place tie in the AL, but still far behind the 18 hit by Josh Hamilton of Texas. While most teams know to pitch around the Rangers’ slugger, challenging Jones with no one on base has been a dicey proposition.
He is batting .365 (31 for 85) with the bases empty with nine homers, including the go-ahead shot in the top of the 15th inning of Wednesday’s 4-3 Orioles victory. It marked the ninth time a home run by Jones either gave the Orioles (24-14) the lead or moved them into a tie, and they improved to a major league-best 12-5 on the road.
“I had three opportunities earlier with men in scoring position that I did not succeed in, which is by far the most frustrating thing for me,” Jones said. “I was 0 for 3. I did not give one of my seven at-bats away. I can live with myself when I do that.”
Jones is hitting .314 (11 for 35) during a current eight-game hitting streak with four homers - all solo shots - and seven RBIs.
“I know Jonesy was a little frustrated there with some previous at-bats, but he got back under control and hit a mistake,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Jonesy is having a great year. Jonesy doesn’t ever give in. You always feel like if he struggles at some point someone is going to pay down the line… He’s a very competitive young man.”
Baltimore has won six straight on the road, its longest such streak since reeling off 10 in a row Aug. 29-Sept. 24, 1999. Remarkably, three of the games during the current streak have lasted at least 13 innings.
Jones has enjoyed facing Royals scheduled starter Luke Hochevar (3-3, 7.20 ERA), going 6 for 15 with three doubles. Additionally, the right-hander has rolled out the welcome mat to all opponents at home this season, going 0-2 with an 11.91 ERA in three starts - giving up 15 runs and 18 hits in 11 1-3 innings.
Hochevar, though, bounced back from a horrid home outing his last time out, scattering three hits and one walk in seven innings of Saturday’s 5-0 road victory over the Chicago White Sox.
“I just tried to stay within my approach and continue to battle like crazy and make good pitches. Just try to go out and execute quality pitches and stay the course,” said Hochevar, who got his first win in five career decisions versus the Orioles on Aug. 3, also the last time he faced them.
While Hochevar is trying to shake his home struggles, Baltimore counterpart Brian Matusz (2-4, 5.50) is seeking his third win in four starts. The left-hander yielded three runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings Saturday, which was enough to get credit for a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay.
While Matusz is 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA in three road outings in 2012, he did limit the Yankees to one run over 6 1-3 innings May 1 to win his last start outside Baltimore. He did not factor in the decision of his lone start at Kansas City in 2010, his only career appearance against the Royals.
Kansas City (15-21) is a major league-worst 4-14 at home, but has won six of eight overall despite Wednesday’s defeat.