- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BALTIMORE | Adam Jones has been hitting the ball solidly all season, as evidenced by his impressive .363 batting average.

As if that isn’t enough, Baltimore’s rapidly improving center fielder has added a jolt of power to his swing.

Jones slammed two home runs for the first time in his career and drove in four runs Tuesday night to lead the Orioles to a 7-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jones hit a solo shot in the first inning and a three-run drive in the second. Both homers - his seventh and eighth of the season - came off Andy Sonnanstine (1-4), who had allowed only one home run in 32 2/3 innings this season.

“The first one was a good pitch by him. I’ve seen it on video. It was a good pitch, and I went down and got it,” Jones said. “The other one was 3-1 right down the middle. I’m just not missing them as often. I’m putting them in play, and I’m putting them in play with authority.”

Now in his second full year in the majors, Jones totaled 17 homers in his first 233 games before hitting three in his last three.

“I got a bat in my hand. I’m not going to go up there swinging gingerly,” he said. “I got three strikes, and I’m just trying to make the best of it up there.”

Baltimore trailed 5-1 in the second inning before rallying for its fourth win in six games. The Orioles are 4-2 against the defending AL champions after losing the season series 15-3 last year.

Brian Bass (2-1) pitched four scoreless innings of relief, and George Sherrill, the fifth Baltimore pitcher, worked the ninth for his sixth save. Sherrill was in danger of losing his job after blowing two save opportunities in the span of a week, but the left-hander appears to have righted himself after working with pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

“George looked a lot more determined the last couple times he’s pitched,” manager Dave Trembley said.

Said Sherrill: “You don’t want to have your job threatened. I just wanted to see what the problem was. I think working with Kranny. The adjustments he’s made are really starting to pay off.”

Despite the loss, the Rays reached two milestones. Carl Crawford drove in two runs to pass Aubrey Huff for the franchise lead in career RBI, and Tampa Bay extended its club-record streak of games with at least one stolen base to 14.

The Rays batted around against Mark Hendrickson in a five-run second. The key hits were a two-run double by Crawford and an RBI single by Evan Longoria.

The Orioles answered with five runs in the bottom half to take a 6-5 lead. The uprising included an RBI double by Lou Montanez and was capped by Jones’ second homer of the night.

In the Baltimore third, Huff led off with a double and scored on a single by Melvin Mora before Montanez chased Sonnanstine with a single.

“It was the most frustrating start I ever had,” Sonnanstine said. “It’s a lot of bad luck, I think. I felt good physically. I felt my pitches were good. It just wasn’t my night. I feel like they got my number.”

Neither team got a runner in scoring position again until the sixth, when Jones dropped a fly ball to allow Ben Zobrist to reach second with no outs. A one-out single by Gabe Kapler put runners at the corners before Bass got Dioner Navarro to hit into a double play.

In the seventh, Longoria hit a two-out double off Danys Baez and Carlos Pena drew an intentional walk before Willy Aybar grounded out.

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