Take notes, Mookie Betts. That’s how you play centerfield at the Major League level.
Last night, in the Baltimore Orioles’ 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox, three-time defending American League Gold Glover, Adam Jones showed exactly why he has put the award for the league’s best defensive centerfielder in a stranglehold.
The show got started in the second inning when Xander Bogaerts lined a Wei-Yin Chen offering off the wall in center. It was a towering fly ball, and looked like a sure double. Most outfielders would have been content to take their time playing the ball off the wall and cede the double. But that’s not how the heart and soul of the Orioles plays the game.
Jones barehanded the ball as it came off the wall and threw a one-hop strike to J.J. Hardy covering at second. Bogaerts, who looked to be coasting on the play, was initially ruled safe, but a quick review led to the call’s reversal.
“He doesn’t cede anything,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “‘Here’s a ball over my head and that’s a double. Now let me get to a place where if it comes off clean I’ve got a play.’ He doesn’t cede anything. It’s infectious.”
Jones is typically known more for his range and ability to get to balls in the gap rather than his arm, but this was his fourth outfield assist on the season. He got back to doing what he is known for later in the same inning, sprinting into the rightfield gap and making a nice, leaping catch to rob Mookie Betts of a base hit.
Jones’ best play of the night came in the fifth inning, again with Mookie Betts batting. Betts hit a soft liner to the right-center gap. Jones got horizontal and made the catch to cap off an excellent, Gold Glove night in the field.
If ever there was a play begging to have Statcast put to work, it was this one. Jones covered nearly 60 feet to get to the ball and reached a top speed of 18.28 MPH. His route efficiency was 97.17. To get to a ball that far away from him, and sinking quickly, Jones had to be as close to flawless as possible, and that is exactly what he was.
Mookie Betts may very well challenge Adam Jones for a Gold Glove one day, but last night, he was forced to play spectator to the four-time Gold Glover. Hopefully, he took away some pointers on how to play a grown-man centerfield.