The Orioles got a four-hit, two-homer, five-RBI effort from shortstop JJ Hardy Tuesday night as the latest “Biggest Series Of The Year” got underway at Camden Yards. Hardy paced a healthy offensive attack that banged out 13 hits—five of which went for extra bases—and went 4/9 with runners in scoring position, in the birds’ 9-2 drubbing of Tampa Bay.
These are still the Baltimore Orioles, though, so there just HAD to be some adversity. Starter Jason Hammel, making just his second appearance since returning from knee surgery, had to leave the game in the fourth inning after re-injuring his right knee. Hardy’s first homer of the night had the O’s on top 3-1 at the time, and Hammel was cruising. He’d given up just one hit—a Ryan Roberts home run—in 3.2 innings of work when he had to come out. Hammel has an MRI scheduled for Wednesday, but he almost certainly will be pushed back in the rotation, at best.
Replacing Hammel with two outs in the fourth was Steve Johnson (W, 3-0). The rookie right hander struggled to get anything off speed over the plate, so he used a fastball that ranged from 88-92 MPH as his out pitch. He was not spectacular, but was solid, striking out two and walking two in 1.1 hitless, scoreless innings.
The Orioles added runs in the fifth (on an two-RBI double from Matt Wieters), sixth (on a hit from Hardy), and seventh (on Chris Davis’ 25th home run), to extend the lead to 7-1. Hardy’s second home run of the night was his 21st of the season. He became the fourth Oriole with 20 or more here in 2012, joining Adam Jones (29), Davis, and Mark Reynolds (21). Wieters is just one knock away, at 19.
The birds and Rays do battle again Wednesday, with the Orioles looking to lock up a series win. Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.62) faces Tampa’s Alex Cobb (9-8, 4.28). Game time is 7:05.
- Hardy: 4/5, 1 double, 2HR, 3R, 5RBI, and a great defensive play early in the game.
- Wieters: 3/3, 1 double, 2RBI
- Nate McLouth, leading off: 2/5, 2R, 1SB
- O’s bullpen of Johnson, Luis Ayala, Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day, and Pedro Strop combined: 5.1IP, 1ER, 4H, 1HR, 2BB, 7K
- Minutes after the Strop recorded the last out in this one, the Red Sox walked off with a 4-3 win over the Yankees. The O’s and Yankees are again tied atop the AL East. The Rays are 2 games out.
- Fingers crossed for a quick recovery from Hammel. With Chris Tillman already having been pushed back after experiencing elbow stiffness, and with the team handling Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen with kid gloves due to concerns of overuse, the Orioles do not need to lose Hammel here in the stretch run.