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Orioles' J.J. Hardy seeing fortunes change at plate since return from foot fracture

J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles hits a two-run single in the first inning as Brian McCann of the New York Yankees defends on July 21, 2016 at Yankee Stadium in New York City.
J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles hits a two-run single in the first inning as Brian McCann of the New York Yankees defends on July 21, 2016 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. (Elsa / Getty Images)

Before this month's four-day break for the All-Star Game, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy was playing like he needed one. The rehabilitation from his fractured foot had brought him back to the heart of the Orioles infield, but he wasn't fresh after the relentless work it took to come back.

In the third-last game before the break, Hardy committed errors on back-to-back plays, and worried that he was getting into a funk.

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Hardy began to come around at the plate before the break, but since that time away, he has thrived. With two hits in Friday's 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians, Hardy now has three straight two-hit games, and eight in his past 14, raising his batting average on the season to .274.

He entered Saturday batting .296 (32-for-108) since returning on June 18, and manager Buck Showalter said Hardy has been an important part of stabilizing the Orioles lineup in July.

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"I think, very quietly, J.J. Hardy has had some big hits and been in the middle of a lot of things for us," Showalter said. "I know it kind of gets pushed under; he's hitting over. 270 now and very quietly just really been in the middle of a lot of things for us here lately."

Even before his injury, Hardy had been swinging the bat well, even if his .244 average didn't give him much to show for it. His average exit velocity of 93.7 mph entering Saturday was tied for 20th in baseball, well above the league average of 89.4 mph.

He has homered once on either side of the All-Star break, and sneaks into the top 10 in American League shortstops in OPS in his past 30 games.

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