With the return of the NFL this past weekend we've been hearing a lot about "gamechangers." In football a gamechanger can oftentimes refer to a special teamer, mainly a kickoff/punt returner. (I respect the heck out of what those guys do, however wouldn't you have to be a little nuts to do it on a regular basis?!) However keep in mind that football isn't the only game where you have the concept of a gamechanger. The O's saw those tendencies in Adam Jones last night. First off, Jones hasn't played since Friday night in Toronto when he fouled a ball off his hand. You can add that to a list of injuries that's plagued this team all season. If anything at least they could rely on Adam Jones on a daily basis; now even he's struggling to stay on the field. This of course is no fault of his or anyone else's, it's just the dumb luck that the Orioles generally have.
The reason I used a punt returner in football as an example of a gamechanger is because in many cases we don't see him on the field at any other point in the game. He's a threat that's sort of sprung on the opposition at pinpoint times throughout a game. As I said, Jones hasn't been playing of late due to fouling a ball off his hand. However that doesn't mean that he can't run, right? In the last of the 8th last night against Tampa, Jones was sent in as a pinch runner at first base with one down. After several throws by the Tampa pitcher back to first to try to catch the dancing Jones, you could tell that he (the pitcher) was getting flustered. It seems that the Rays didn't anticipate Jones coming into the game, and as a result they weren't really equipped to deal with him. The element of surprise is one of the first ingredients to being a game changer. If you have the ability to spring something on the opponent when he least expects it, you've got something that he didn't expect and you've used it to your advantage. With Jones distracting the Rays, Matt Wieters ended up getting a fastball up in the zone. Just as this was going on, Jones took off for second base; we'll never really know if he would have made it safely however, because he ended up getting a slow walk around the bases the rest of the way. Wieters' big bop might still be traveling for al we know! The only other player on the Orioles that has this ability to distract pitchers is Brian Roberts. Had he stayed healthy this year, I see no reason as to why the season wouldn't have been better than it was.
The O's took a 1-0 lead early in the game only to have Oriole-killer Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer to give Tampa a 2-1 lead. However in the sixth Buck Showalter sent Jake Fox up to hit with a runner in scoring position, and Fox hit the ball all the way to the wall. That set up the Jones/Wieters sequence because it chased Tampa's starter David Price from the game and got into their pen. For once this season, the Orioles found a way to win in a manner that was not expected by the opponent. It seems that they've been so predictable over time, and yet they used a gamechanger off the bench to win this game which Tampa never would have predicted. They need to buiild on that.