Hardly a win without Hardy

If you check the box score from yesterday, you'll find that shortstop J.J. Hardy walked in six plate appearances and scored a run in the Orioles' 6-4, 12-inning victory over the Phillies.

Here's what you won't find: A defensive play that made it possible for the Orioles to even this series.

I mentioned it yesterday, but I want to revisit it this morning while waiting for both teams to post their lineups and for manager Buck Showalter to meet with reporters in the home dugout, which should be a ripe 100 degrees before noon.

The Phillies tied the game off set-up man Pedro Strop in the eighth inning on three consecutive one-out singles, the last by veteran Jim Thome, whose age nearly matches the dugout temperature. Robert Andino's error loaded the bases and put the Phillies on the verge of taking the lead.

Unfortunately for them, former Oriole Ty Wigginton hit the ball to the wrong guy.

Hardy Fields Black tall.jpgWigginton's grounder kicked off the lip of the infield grass and looked like it would scoot past Hardy, who must have been anticipating a nice, normal hop. Sir Smooth made the adjustment in a split second, fielding the ball cleanly and flipping to Andino for the 6-4-3 double play.

You know the rest. Jim Johnson, Darren O'Day and Luis Ayala combined for four scoreless innings, and Adam Jones hit a walk-off home run into the Orioles' bullpen in the bottom of the 12th.

Those contributions show up in the box score, but what Hardy did was every bit as important in determining the outcome.

"The first time that's happened to me here in Baltimore," Hardy said. "Just one of those balls that happens on any field. Wigginton hit it pretty hard and I was expecting it to hit up by my shoulder and it hit the lip. Luckily, I was just able to get my glove down and get it.

"It's just a reaction thing. You're never expecting it. If you're looking for that, it's going to hop over your glove. It's just kind of a reaction play."

Hardy's batting .253 with 11 homers and 27 RBIs, but his value is on display every time he takes his position in the field.

Shameless plug alert: I'm doing a segment on "O's Xtra" that begins at 1 p.m. on MASN2.

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