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J.J. Hardy finds power stroke, hits two Pesky homers in Orioles' win over Red Sox

Orioles' J.J. Hardy, right, celebrates his two-run home run that also drove in Pedro Alvarez (24) in front of Boston Red Sox's Blake Swihart, behind, during the seventh inning in Boston, Tuesday, April 12, 2016.
Orioles' J.J. Hardy, right, celebrates his two-run home run that also drove in Pedro Alvarez (24) in front of Boston Red Sox's Blake Swihart, behind, during the seventh inning in Boston, Tuesday, April 12, 2016. (Michael Dwyer / AP)

BOSTON — Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy spent all season last year playing with a torn labrum in his nonthrowing shoulder that affected his swing and sapped his power.

His first multi-homer game in 20 months in the Orioles' 9-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night — a victory that extended the team's best start in club history — was a sign that Hardy's power is starting to return.

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Neither of Hardy's two two-run homers were blasts. At most parks, they probably would have skipped into the corner for extra bases at best. Hardy also said he was the beneficiary of some timely wind gusts that pushed the balls into the seats. Each one went the opposite way and landed in the first row of the right-field stands, hooking just inside the Pesky Pole.

Hardy has now hit just 10 of his 177 career homers to right field.

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"I don't think I hit one ball to the right of second base during batting practice," Hardy said with a smile.

The Pesky Pole is just 302 feet down the line, and Fenway Park's right-field corner allows for a lot of opportunity to send a ball into the stands before it evens out at 380 feet.

And Hardy took advantage of Fenway's most famous nook. His homers traveled just 327 and 339 feet, according to ESPN Stats and Info, and were the shortest long balls so far in this young season.

"The first one I think was a pretty decent swing," Hardy said. "It was just kind of protect with two strikes. I think the wind helped a little bit, just pushed it around the pole and then the second one, I mean it was a pop-up, either a foul ball or an out in most ballparks. I'll take them."

Regardless, both homers came on swings that Hardy probably wouldn't have been able to make last season.

"Probably not," Hardy said. "I feel like I've already hit balls harder this year than I did at any point last year. It's good. My body feels good and I hope to keep it going like that."

Hardy sat back on both, letting the ball get deep in the zone before sending them the opposite direction.

His first home run came in the fourth inning, as he took a 93-mph fastball from Clay Buchholz the other way just over the short right-field fence to tie the game at 2.

Buchholz's 1-2 delivery to Hardy was letter-high and over the outer half of the plate, and the Orioles shortstop stayed back on it enough to lace it down the line just into the first row of seats in right field.

Hardy's homer was reviewed by the umpiring crew chief and ultimately confirmed after a video review of 1 minute, 40 seconds.

In the seventh inning, Hardy sat on a 94-mph fastball from Red Sox reliever Robbie Ross on a 2-1 count, giving him his first multi-homer game since Aug. 8, 2014 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Including a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, Hardy drove in five runs on the night, the most RBIs he has had in a single game since driving in five on Sept. 11, 2012.

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Both times Hardy trotted around the bases, he wore a big smile, knowing he was going to take grief from his teammates once he returned to the dugout.

"I got worn out by all my teammates for the first one and I just know I was going to get worn out again," Hardy said. "… I'll take it though."

A calf strain that forced Hardy to miss one game — he would have missed a second had Saturday's game not been rained out — is behind him, caught before it became a bigger problem. He came into this week's series in Boston still looking for results at the plate. He had two hits in 12 at-bats, hitting .167 with just one extra-base hit. He doubled in the Orioles' series-opening 9-7 win Monday.

"He deserves to have a couple of home runs there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He said, 'It's not my park, I didn't build it.' I said, 'Don't feel bad, you are going to hit some home runs to straight-away center field that someone's going to track down.'

"You like to see good things happen to good people. He put good swings on those balls. They would have been extra-base hits, regardless of the distance."

But given the prodigious power the Orioles have already shown — they have 13 homers in their first seven games — a Hardy who can hit for power from the bottom third of the lineup makes a dangerous lineup even more lethal.

"We all feel pretty confident," Hardy said. "A lot of fun. It's just every night, you watch the guys just sitting in the dugout watching everybody's at-bats. It's fun because everybody – one through nine – can do it and it's fun to watch."

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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