With his fifth-inning home run Thursday, J.J. Hardy became the ninth shortstop since 1901 to have 25 home runs in three different seasons.
He is the fourth active player to achieve that as a shortstop – though I guess it depends on your definition of “active.” Former Oriole Miguel Tejada, now with the Kansas City Royals and on the suspended list for violating the league’s drug policy, is on the list. As is the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, now a third baseman and Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki.
In pure Hardy form, he sidestepped a question about reaching 25 homers and instead talked about team goals.
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“For me it’s not a time to think about the personal stuff,” he said. “After the season I might reflect on it, but right now we need to win ballgames. And, if it helps to win the ballgame, then it is great.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter had no problem heaping praise on Hardy after the game.
“I've kind of run out of things to describe him. I think everybody knows what we think of him,” Showalter said. “He's so consistent. You know what you're getting from him every day. He's such a quiet leader in his own way. His voice carries a lot of weight and he picks his words wisely. He does so many things behind the scenes that I don't even know about. Just a word here and a word there. It's so unselfish. Just the way he carries himself. It's an honor to watch him play shortstop every night. He's the most fundamentally sound shortstop I've ever had. Maybe I've ever seen.”
Hardy is signed through 2014. He’d love to stay in Baltimore. It’ll be interesting to see if the sides talk about an extension this offseason. They obviously have Manny Machado waiting in the wings as a shortstop. But having them both on the left side of the infield – even if they were to swap positions at some point – would help keep the Orioles’ defense strong. And, without a question, the club’s defense is its biggest asset right now.
** Adam Jones also hit milestones Thursday with his 30th homer and 100th RBI. One of Jones’ primary goals this year, personally, was to drive in 100 runs.
Jones and hitting coach Jim Presley love to playfully jaw at each other. And every time Jones points out that Presley never hit 30 homers in a season in his career (Presley had 28 in 1985 and 27 in 1986), Presley would snap back that until Jones drove in 100 (Presley had 107 RBIs in 1986) he didn’t want to hear from him.
Knowing Jones, Presley will hear plenty soon. Not only has Jones gotten to the century mark in RBIs, but he now has two more career homers than Presley. Of course, no one is happier than Presley that Jones is achieving more personal goals this year.
Showalter lauded Jones not only for getting 30 and 100, but for his toughness. Jones has homered twice since getting plunked Wednesday night.
“Adam took a 95 mph fastball just below the elbow [Wednesday]. Hit a home run next time up. I came so close to taking him out of the game. In fact, I was going to and he wanted to take one more at-bat and see how it felt,” Showalter said. “He's had it wrapped up and whatever. I talked to him (Thursday). It's still sore. This guy is such a tough guy. We're lucky to have him and we're lucky to have ownership that allows us to have him.”
** The Orioles now lead the majors with 188 home runs after hitting three Thursday. All three were solo shots, though, and were they only runs the Orioles scored.
I’ve been saying it since last year’s postseason. If you rely only on the homer, you’ll have trouble beating good pitchers and good teams that know how to manufacture runs.
The home runs are great, but the Orioles need to get runners in from second or third, too. They were hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position Thursday.
** The official announced attendance for Thursday night was 17,383. That’s tickets sold. There weren’t that many people in the stands, probably a few thousand less.
But, honestly, given that the Ravens opened their season on Thursday night and there was a country music concert in the Inner Harbor, it wasn’t a bad turnout.
I expected much less. And the people that were there were into the game. So, I’d say it was a pretty solid showing given what else was going on.