J.J. Hardy the hero as the Baltimore Orioles sweep Cincinnati


Some folks might look at last night’s game and come to the conclusion that the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff and bullpen is starting to crack. And they might be right for all I know. Time will tell in that regard. However more realistically, each game ebbs and flows differentl – much like the season itself. However in a season where it seems that different players take turns playing the role of hero, the cursor stopped on J.J. Hardy once again last night.

Chris Tillman breezed through the first couple of innings before hitting a few snags in last night’s game. However as Showalter says, sometimes you just have to tip your cap. It seems like the Baltimore Orioles were tipping their caps a lot up until a couple of years ago. And I think that even the most vocal critic of this team would have to admit that three or four years ago they wouldn’t have won this game. Tillman’s line: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K.

Admittely you can put me in the category of people who thought this game was probably going to be over early after the first inning. Nelson Cruz gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead with his two-run homer in the first inning, which was followed by Kelly Johnson‘s RBI-double. It was Johnson’s first hit as an Oriole, and in a meaningful game it certainly meant something. Nick Hundley closed out the scoring in the inning with a three-run homer, and the O’s had a 6-0 lead.

Tillman struggled a bit in the third inning, walking in a run and allowing another on a sac fly by Mesoraco. Jonathan Schoop would later swap solo homers with Mesoraco in the fourth and sixth innings respectively, and the O’s had a 7-3 lead. That’s where the game stood when Tillman left the game after six innings, in line to get the win.

Games don’t always unfold the way they’re supposed to, especially once a starter leaves the game. However as Showalter said after the game, the W is all that matters.

Brad Brach unloaded a wild pitch with the bases loaded in the seventh for Cincinnati’s fourth run, and Donald Lutz‘s two-RBI single knotted the game at seven, disallowing Tillman from getting the victory. Again, some games ebb and flow like this one. Cincinnati certainly wasn’t happy with dropping the first two games of this series, nor were they happy about going down 6-0 early in this game. So it’s probably not overly surprising that they put up the fight they did.

But the Orioles came right back in the last of the seventh and loaded the bases. Games like this always need a hero, and J.J. Hardy stepped

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

to the plate with two outs. Hardy sent a sharp liner to left, which scored two runs and gave the Orioles a 9-7 lead. Tommy Hunter was the pitcher of record when the O’s took the lead back, so he gets credit for the win, and Zach Britton of course closed Cincinnati out in the ninth for the save.

Again, it’s easy to look at this game and suggest that the Orioles have been winning with smoke in mirrors. But regarding anything, you have to look at the entire body of work, not just one piece. And the entire body of work suggests that the Orioles have a pretty special bullpen. I often tell people that if they watch baseball the way they watch football, they’re going to end up with an ulcer. When you only play 16 games it’s acceptable to watch the games and analyze every little detail to every degree. But when you play 162, you’re probably going to make yourself sick if you do that! Having said that, these games now matter moreso than they ever did in the past – in this season or others.

The O’s closed out a 9-2 homestand and a sweep of Cincinnati with the victory last night. They currently sit ahead of NY in first place by 9.5 games. They’ll now head to Tampa for a three-game weekend set; while the O’s took three-of-four from Tampa last week, they always present challenges. Wei-Yin Chen will get the ball tonight at Tropicana Field, and he’ll be opposed by Alex Cobb. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.