It was a night where J.J. Hardy let his bat do the talking. The Orioles shortstop, usually reserved in interviews, had few words to say after his two-homer, five-RBI night led the Orioles past Tampa Bay 9-2 for a share of first place in the American League East.
“I don’t know, I can’t explain it,” Hardy said. “I got a couple of pitches to hit and didn’t miss them. He’s a tough pitcher (Matt Moore) and it was nice to see him get out of there early.
“Steve Johnson for one came in and did a great job. The rest of the bullpen has done a great job all year.”
Hardy went 4-for-5 with an RBI single, double and a pair of two-run homers. It was his ninth career multi-homer game and first five-RBI game since May 12, 2007 for Milwaukee against the Mets. He had a career-high six RBIs on Sept. 7, 2005 for the Brewers at Cincinnati.
He gave some credit to leadoff hitter Nate McLouth, who was on base for his last two run-scoring hits.
“Without Nick, I mean, Nate - hopefully he can pick up where Nick left off. Tonight he did and hopefully, he can keep it going,” Hardy said.
“It is always nice to get that first one in a series, especially with these guys. It was a big night for us.”
“I saw him limp a little bit after one of the pitches and just got up and starting stretching, just in case,” Johnson said. “A few pitches later, I got the call. I wanted to get out of that inning and was able to do that.
“I didn’t have a couple pitches working today - don’t know whether that was because I had to get ready kind of quick or I wasn’t loose yet, but the curveball wasn’t really there. But I was able to make a couple pitches with my fastball,” Johnson said after he went 1 1/3 innings to get the win, improving to 3-0.
“I probably rushed (my warmup pitches) a little bit. But it wasn’t too bad. I was getting loose as I was throwing,” he said. “This is a big win. Every win from here on out is a big. Happy to get the first one of a series with a division rival.”
He seems to have the ability to pitch well with infrequent appearances.
“Whenever they need me to pitch, I’m ready. Whether it’s every day or once a week, I’ll be ready,” Johnson said.