Hardy homers for 2-0 lead (O’s win 4-3)

When the Orioles hit a home run, they tend to do it without flying solo.

Eleven of their last 15 homers have come with runners on base, including J.J. Hardy’s two-run shot in the top of the first inning today that gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead against Indians starter Josh Tomlin.

Meanwhile, 21 of the last 23 home runs allowed by the Orioles have come with the bases empty.

Nick Markakis reached on an infield hit, making him 15-for-40 in the leadoff spot, and Hardy followed with his 14th home run of the season.

Hardy has hit only three homers in his last 37 games. He was batting .169/.204/.257 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 43 games since June 1, and he was 5-for-24 with a double, four walks and three runs scored on this road trip.

The Orioles are 32-14 when they score first, and 45-24 when they hit a home run.

Tomlin finally got out of the first inning after throwing 28 pitches. He allowed four hits, but only the two runs.

Jim Thome followed Hardy to the plate and singled to center field, making him 10-for-27 in his last seven games.

Update: The Orioles still lead the Indians, 2-0, in the sixth inning.

Zach Britton walked six batters in four innings in his first start. Today, he hasn’t issued a walk in five scoreless innings.

Britton has held the Indians to three hits and struck out four.

The Orioles haven’t scored since Hardy’s home run. They’re 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and have stranded five.

Update II: Britton has turned in the fifth straight quality start by the Orioles’ rotation. He held the Indians to four hits over six scoreless innings, with two walks - yes, right after I blogged and tweeted that he hadn’t walked anyone - and five strikeouts. He threw 104 pitches, 64 for strikes, and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.

The Orioles failed to turn two double plays in the sixth, once because Britton made a bad throw to Ryan Flaherty covering second, but the shutout remains intact.

Hardy has his first multi-hit game since July 3 and his second since June 28. His RBI single in the seventh, on the 10th pitch thrown by Esmil Rogers, increased the lead to 3-0.

The Orioles are 2-for-7 with RISP and have stranded seven.

Update III: Wilson Betemit homered for the first time since June 26, connecting off former Orioles reliever Jeremy Accardo in the eighth to increase the lead to 4-0.

The Orioles haven’t strung together six straight quality starts this season, so you have something to look forward to tomorrow night.

Update IV: The Orioles extended their winning streak to five games with a 4-3 victory over the Indians. They haven’t won six in a row all season.

Luis Ayala had allowed nine earned runs in his last 10 appearances, covering 14 1/3 innings before today. He retired the first seven batters he faced before serving up a two-run homer to Carlos Santana in the ninth.

Jim Johnson replaced Ayala and recorded his 30th save, most in the majors, but it wasn’t easy.

Shelley Duncan doubled off the left field fence with one out, and Travis Hafner followed with an RBI single to amp up the drama. Shin-Soo Choo walked with two outs, but Asdrubal Cabrera struck out.

Nothing to it, right?

The Orioles are 38-0 when leading after the seventh and 40-0 when leading after the eighth. They’re 19-6 in one-run games, 33-14 when scoring first and 46-24 when they hit a home run. They’re 37-13 when they score four runs or more, and 27-15 when they don’t commit an error.

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