Baltimore Orioles: A win and a bow for J.J. Hardy

The tone for the day was set when J.J. Hardy came up to bat for the first time yesterday, and the entire Baltimore Orioles’ dugout stood and applauded. That eventually spread to the crowd, and even the opposing Tampa dugout. Hardy, in the final year of his contract, may well have been playing his final game at Camden Yards yesterday. And staying true to the script, he saved the day.

Dylan Bundy was supposed to have started yesterday’s game. However he was a very late scratch with a sore hamstring. So instead, the Camden faithful also got perhaps their final look at Chris Tillman (who started in place of Bundy), who’s also in a walk year. Tillman’s line: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

Perhaps indicative of his entire season’s worth of struggles, Tillman surrendered a homer to Tampa’s Kiermaier in the game’s opening at-bat. But luckily for him, Oriole bats showed up yesterday. Adam Jones gave the Birds the lead with a two-RBI single in the last of the first. Chris Davis and Pedro Alvarez each added RBI-singles, and suddenly the O’s led 4-1.

However Tampa just refuses to be outdone. They put a three-spot on the board in the second, tying the game at four. That type of team has to be frustrating to play against. As I’ve said, teams such as Tampa’s attitudes are anything you can do I can do better. Luckily, the fact remained that on this day, they couldn’t do it better.

Hardy came up to bat in the last of the fourth with the game tied, and looking like the J.J. Hardy of old, smacked a two-run homer to left field. Mind you that when Hardy first came to Baltimore, he was hitting 20 or so homers a year. But Father Time is undefeated as they say. However he took a timeout on this day, as Hardy gave his team the lead for good in what could be his final game at what’s been his home yard.

Newly called up catcher Chance Sisco also got into the act, with a two-run home run in the sixth. Davis would add another one inning later on an RBI-groundout, and the Birds cruised to a 9-4 victory. But the takeaway from this game was the Hardy standing ovation, which of course was well deserved.

There are few players as good as Hardy both on and off the field. If in fact his days with the Orioles are nearing their end, he’s a guy who will be sorely missed. After the game Hardy spoke of how much that moment and day meant to him (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

We’re talking about it like 100 percent I’m not coming back here. I know they’re not going to pick up my option, but I feel like there’s probably still a small chance that I could come back. Definitely, I feel like I’m an Oriole. I’ll be an Oriole for life. These seven years have been, I couldn’t have asked for more.

I’m really appreciative of Buck writing my name in the lineup as much as he did, the Angelos family for signing me to two extensions, all my teammates. I’m a person that really cares about what people think about me. To see the way that they reacted today was really special.

And I suspect that many of the fans felt the same way. The Orioles are an organization that’s always done a great job of honoring the past. Yesterday they had the opportunity to do it while the past was still the present, and before it slipped away.

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