Shortstop J.J. Hardy broke out of an 0-for-11 streak in a big way Saturday, going 2-for-3 with two solo home runs against Detroit ace Justin Verlander in the Orioles' 10-3 loss to the Tigers.
Hardy conitinues to pull himself out of an early season funk. He has raised his batting average 56 points since May 2, when he was .188.
In 28 games in May, Hardy hit .273 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs and has helped solidify the bottom half of the Orioles' batting order.
“We’re still hacking, just trying to put up as many runs,” Hardy said. “It’s just tough to overcome that eight-run fourth.”
Hardy’s home runs came when he led off the third and fifth innings against Verlander on a 91 mph changeup and 77 mph curveball, respectively.
In the sixth inning, though, Verlander threw Hardy three fastballs of at least 96 mph and got him to fly out to center field, stranding two runners.
“My third at-bat off him, I had people on base and the first pitch was 98 mph,” Hardy said. “I was like, either I [made him mad] or he’s a different pitcher with people on base.”
For his career, Hardy has batted .276 leading off innings with 36 of his 143 career home runs coming in that situation. This season, opponents leading off an inning were batting just .190 off Verlander, and Hardy’s home runs were the first two leadoff shots he’d allowed.
The Orioles have homered to start an inning 27 times this season, and 48 of the 80 Orioles home runs this season have been solo shots.
Hardy was able to cut into the Tigers’ leads with his home runs, but when the Orioles had an opportunity to string together big innings -- like Hardy’s at-bat in the sixth -- Verlander was there to shut the door and keep the Tigers’ comfortable cushion.
“I think that’s just the way he is,” Hardy said. “He saves his good stuff, his really good stuff, for when he needs it.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun