MINNEAPOLIS — An early season slump has caused Baltimore Orioles to put in plenty of extra work to try and find a way out.
Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins, that hard work paid off.
Jones had a pair of hits, including a two-run single in the top of the ninth inning to break a tie game as the Orioles won 5-3 at Target Field.
Baltimore has won three straight games and sits tied atop the American League East with the Boston Red Sox.
Minnesota has lost six straight games and 10 of its past 11 overall.
Jones entered the game hitting .200 with one home run and nine RBIs in the first 26 games of the season. After getting rained out on Monday, Jones spent extra time in the hitting cages to try and get things right.
The early returns are promising: He matched the homer total and equaled one-third of his previous RBIs on Tuesday, getting a pair of hits in five trips to the plate.
“He wants to be as good as he’s capable of,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s a feel-good because you know how much it (bothers him). He’s got a great way of not taking himself too seriously but you know it’s kind of been grinding on him. You know he cares.”
With the game tied at 3-3 in the ninth, Twins right-hander Kevin Jepsen got a strikeout and a pop out in foul territory to start the inning. But a double to left by Joey Rickard and an intentional walk to Manny Machado put two men on for Jones, who smashed a shot toward Twins left fielder Oswaldo Arcia.
Arcia didn’t take a proper route to the ball and it landed in front of him, caroming off Arcia’s foot when his diving attempt at a catch came up short. Both runners, who had advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, scored on the play.
“I gotta get that third out,” Jepsen said. “That’s just the bottom line.”
Jones also mashed the second of back-to-back home runs off Twins starter Jose Berrios in the fifth inning, which gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
“We’ve been playing good baseball as a team,” Jones said. “As long as we keep winning, it doesn’t really matter how it goes as long as the team wins. That’s the main objective, the main goal.”
Machado had three hits, including his 10th homer, and walked twice.
Darren O’Day got the win in relief of Kevin Gausman, pitching one inning of relief.
Jepsen took the loss, dropping to 2-4 on the season. Jepsen was charged with two runs, both earned, on three hits and a walk in an inning of work.
Orioles closer Zach Britton worked a perfect ninth for his eighth save.
Trevor Plouffe had a pair of hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in all three Twins runs.
Gausman allowed three runs on five hits and two walks, striking out nine in a no-decision. The homer he allowed to Plouffe in the sixth inning prevented him from a chance at a victory.
“Obviously, I was upset after the home run. Anytime you’re cruising and in your last inning, one of the worst pitches you throw gets hit out of the park to tie the ballgame,” Gausman said. “In the back of my head, I always try to think ‘Go nine innings,’ but to give your team a chance to win, a quality start is all you really need to do.”
Twins right-hander Jose Berrios also got a no-decision, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk in five innings. Berrios fanned six in his third career start.
Minnesota cracked the scoreboard in the first inning, using back-to-back one-out singles to ignite the rally.
Eduardo Nunez and Brian Dozier each singled to put runners on the corners with one out for Plouffe, whose sacrifice fly to center scored Nunez from third.
“I was pleased we at least came out and competed a little better than I thought we have been of late,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor. “Their guy threw the ball awfully well.” Baltimore got even in the fourth. After a one-out double by Mark Trumbo, Matt Wieters followed with a sharp single past an outstretched Joe Mauer at first, scoring Trumbo.
Machado and Jones hit back-to-back homers two pitches apart in the fifth as Baltimore took a 3-1 lead.