By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
5:23 PM EDT, August 10, 2013
Give Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy some kudos for knowing his franchise history.
With his solo homer in the second inning Friday, Hardy became the third Orioles shortstop to record three consecutive 20-homer seasons. And when told of the accomplishment, Hardy quickly was able to name the other two players — Miguel Tejada (2004-06) and Cal Ripken Jr. (1982-91).
“I feel like throughout my career, I’ve had my ups and downs,” Hardy said. “It’s been kind of a roller coaster. I’ve always said that if I can stay consistent, I’d be a lot better. It’s nice to be able to do it three years in a row. Consistency is big in this game.”
Hardy has flourished this season batting in the bottom half of the order — mostly in the sixth and seven spots — after scuffling last year in the No. 2 spot. With 47 games left in the season, Hardy is just two homers shy of last season’s total and his strikeout numbers are down — 106 last season and just 55 so far this year.
“I think maybe [I’m being] more aggressive early on in the count, putting the ball in play,” Hardy said. “Sometimes, honestly ... I feel like a strikeout wouldn’t be that big a deal anyway. When I take a swing early in the count, and it’s a pitch that’s off the plate and put it in play weakly, I get [angry] and wished I would have swing and missed to give myself two more chances. For me, a strikeout as long as there’s no one on third base and less than two outs is the same thing as a rollover to shortstop. I don’t know how many times I’ve done that.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks often about how he didn’t realize how good Hardy was until he became his manager. Defensively, his leadership is like having an extra coach on the field, Showalter said, and his offense is a big part of the Orioles’ vaunted batting order.
“He’s got a grip on reality,” Showalter said. “I’m really proud or happy that baseball gets how good J.J. is. Because a lot of guys like him fall through the [cracks]. I think a lot of that has to do with his peers. But he’s relentlessly good.”
Markakis in the fifth spot
Orioles right-fielder Nick Markakis made his first start hitting out of the No. 5 spot in the batting order Saturday.
With Matt Wieters having a day off, Showalter wanted to hit Markakis — who has a .339 career average in interleague play and was 2-for-4 in his career against Giants starter Chad Gaudin — behind Chris Davis to give him better pitches to hit.
“I don’t want to say protection because that’s a reflection on somebody else,” Showalter said. “But without Matt there behind Chris we wanted to make sure we had someone there.”
Around the horn
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez will start Tuesday’s game in Arizona, following Scott Feldman in Monday’s series opener against the Diamondbacks. … Manny Machado’s two doubles Friday gave him 42 on the season and put him on pace for 59 doubles, which would be eight shy of Earl Webb’s big league record (67 in 1931) but more than Brian Roberts’ club record of 56 set in 2009. … The Orioles entered Saturday’s game with a 19-20 record in day games, but a 14-8 mark in afternoon contests on the road. ... The gametime for the Orioles’ Sept. 14 game in Toronto has been changed to 4:07 p.m.
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