BALTIMORE -- It was a rocky road for the Orioles, who got off to the second-worst start in franchise history, but posted back-to-back winning months under manager Buck Showalter to fight their way back to respectability. The same can be said individually of Brian Matusz and Adam Jones, who both took their lumps but were responsible for some of Baltimore's brightest moments.
For their efforts, Matusz has been nominated in the X-Factor category in the 2010 MLB.com's This Year in Baseball Awards, and Jones is one of the finalists for Oddity of the Year for his May 22 inside-the-park homer.
The 2010 This Year in Baseball Awards presented by Toyota features nominees in 19 categories. Individual honors will go to the top Hitter, Starter, Rookie, Closer, Setup Man, Defensive Player, Manager, Executive, Breakout Player, X-Factor, Dependable Player and Postseason MVP.
The 23-year-old Matusz, a preseason candidate for Rookie of the Year, faced an unprecedented amount of adversity -- including a 8.10 ERA in July and talks of a possible demotion -- and emerged better for it. The left-hander went 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA over his final eight starts, ending in six innings of one-run baseball against the Tigers.
"You learn more about yourself through failure than you do when things are going well," Matusz said. "I learned a lot about myself, being able to turn things around and talk to the people I needed to to really fix it mechanically and mentally, because it was tough for a while. Now, it's a good feeling going into the offseason knowing that things were turned around."
Matusz's efforts helped guide Baltimore to wins against divisional foes in Boston, Tampa Bay and New York, earning him a nomination among baseball's best. Last season's first X-Factor of the Year Award went to outfielder Juan Pierre, then a member of the Dodgers, in a special MLB.com vote. This season will mark its first as a full-fledged category.
For Jones, the events of his inside-the-parker proved plenty odd enough to earn the nod. In the fourth inning, with the score tied at 2 between the Orioles and Nationals, Jones took an 0-1 pitch to deep center field. Nats outfielder Nyjer Morgan jumped as the ball hit the wall, but he missed the catch. Morgan thought the ball was gone, and threw his glove to the ground out of frustration.
But the ball never left the park, and by the time left fielder Josh Willingham ran over and retrieved it, both Matt Wieters and Jones scored to give Baltimore a 4-2 lead. Jones was awarded an inside-the-park home run.
For the ninth straight year, fans will help decide the top hitters, pitchers, plays and moments from the MLB season. In 2009, more than 12 million votes were cast by fans around the world.
Fans can vote on the year's top Play, Moment, Performance, Oddity, Game, Fan Moment and Postseason Moment from MLB.com's Must C video highlight vault.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.