Orioles ‘pen is still mightier, Hardy’s defense looks golden (O’s lead 3-1)

With a win tonight, the Orioles would move 12 games above .500 for the first time since June 17. They also would gain another game on the New York Yankees, closing to within five in the American League East.

Over the last 12 games, the Orioles’ bullpen has posted a 0.45 ERA by allowing two earned runs in 39 2/3 innings. During that span, the relievers have permitted 25 hits, walked eight, struck out 32 and held opponents to a .175 average.

Four of the top 22 qualifiers in ERA among American League relievers are Orioles. Pedro Strop (1.20) is second, Darren O’Day (2.45) is 13th, Luis Ayala (2.54) is 18th and Troy Patton (2.58) is 22nd.

Rays closer Fernando Rodney is first with a 0.81 ERA.

J.J. Hardy leads all major league shortstops with a .991 fielding percentage, 571 total chances, 385 assists and a 4.96 range factor per game. He ranks second with 3.34 assists per nine innings and 81 double plays, and fourth with 181 putouts.

Mark Reynolds is batting .423 (11-for-26) with four doubles, four homers, 13 RBIs, eight walks, seven runs scored, a .556 on-base percentage and a 1.038 slugging percentage in eight games against the Red Sox this season.

With 29 games remaining against the AL East, the Orioles have as many wins in the division (24) as they did in 2009 and 2010, and two more than they totaled in 2008. The 2011 Orioles won 28 games vs. the AL East, the most since they won 34 in 2007.

The Orioles are 7-2 on the homestand despite being outhit in six of those games. They’ve won five of their last six series finales at home.

Last night’s game marked the eighth time this season for the Orioles when neither club hit a home run, and the first time that it happened at Camden Yards. The Orioles are 6-2 in those games.

Update: Adam Jones doubled down the right field line with one out in the bottom of the first inning to score Nick Markakis and Hardy for a 2-0 lead.

Markakis and Hardy singled off Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz and moved up on Nate McLouths’ chopper to second base. Markakis was 3-for-27 lifetime against Buchholz before tonight.

Buchholz had allowed one earned run or fewer in four of his last five starts. He’s already surrendered two in the opening inning.

Update II: The Red Sox used a two-out walk and back-to-back singles by Pedro Ciriaco and Scott Podsednik in the top of the second inning to reduce the Orioles’ lead to 2-1, but Mark Reynolds led off the bottom half with his 12th home run.

Reynolds has four homers in his last six games, and five in only 27 at-bats against the Red Sox this season.

Manny Machado followed with a double, making him 8-for-24 with six extra-base hits in the majors.

Chris Tillman has thrown 51 pitches in two innings.

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