On a day that seems likely to be his final one playing as an Oriole at Camden Yards, shortstop J.J. Hardy hit a go-ahead homer as the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 9-4 to complete their home season.
Hardy got a standing ovation, including applause from players on both teams, and waved to the crowd before he batted in the bottom of the first. Then he got a curtain call after his two-run homer in the fourth broke a 4-4 tie. Hardy hit a 3-2 slider from Chris Archer 400 feet for his first homer since May 24. The fans came to their feet again when Hardy came to bat in the last of the eighth. They were chanting his name as he bounced into a forceout to complete a 2-for-4 day at the plate.
It was not a bad way for Hardy to go out at the Yard, if that turns out to be the case. Someone wrote a nice script and there was a lot of emotion on one final sunny Sunday of 2017 at Oriole Park.
Much earlier, the day started poorly for right-hander Chris Tillman and didn’t get much better. O’s right-hander Dylan Bundy was a late scratch due to a strained left hamstring and Tillman instead made his first start since Sept. 3.
Kevin Kiermaier homered on his first pitch of the game for a 1-0 lead. Then, after the Orioles scored four runs in the last of the first, the Rays got three back on Tillman in the second for a 4-4 tie. Kiermaier hit his third leadoff homer of the year and his career.
But the Orioles scored four in the first off Archer. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop singled with one out and scored on a two-run double by Adam Jones. RBI singles by Chris Davis and Pedro Álvarez gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead.
But Brad Miller’s run-scoring single and Jesús Sucre’s two-run homer tied it at 4-4 in the second. Tillman went four innings, allowing six hits and four runs to leave his ERA at 7.71. He threw 65 pitches.
Jones would leave the game as the top of the fourth began, replaced in center by Joey Rickard. The club announced he left the game with general leg soreness.
After Hardy’s homer gave the Orioles that two-run lead, it grew to 8-4 when Chance Sisco hit a two-run homer to right-center in the last of the sixth. He hit a Jake Faria fastball over the wall for his second big league homer, coming in his first major league start. That hit made Sisco 4-for-7 in the majors. In the seventh, Schoop doubled for his third hit and later scored on a Davis grounder to make it 9-4.
With the victory, the Orioles are 75-82 with five road games left. They end the home season, going 46-35 at Oriole Park. They are 37-36 versus American League East teams and 8-8 against Tampa Bay.
Today’s attendance was 23,424. The season attendance for 81 dates is 2,028,424. The Orioles are off tomorrow and begin a two-game series at Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
Sisco on getting his first start behind the plate: “It was very exciting to see my name in the starting lineup. Just tried to work with the pitchers, have a clean game and try to get the win.”
Sisco on Hardy: “That was awesome. I was on deck when the crowd gave him a standing ovation and it gave me the chills a little bit, to sit there and watch the emotion on his face. I could see him looking around and I started looking around, too. That was really cool to be a part of and so close to being on deck.”
Tillman found out at noon he would start today: “I don’t think it helps, but I don’t think it hurts any either. I thought there was a pretty good chance I would pitch today, but I wasn’t expecting to start. Had a pretty good idea I would pitch today. I was ready.”
Does Tillman feel he pitched his last game here today?: “I don’t know. Like I said, I didn’t expect it. But that was a cool day for J.J. That was pretty cool to be a part of. He’s been probably the best teammate I’ve had here. Can’t say enough good things about him. He’s had a good career.”
Hardy on Sunday’s game: “Today is a day that I’ll always remember for sure.”
Hardy also said whether he plays somewhere else next year or not, he’ll always feel like an Oriole for life:
“I’m really appreciative of Buck writing my name in the lineup as much as he did, the Angelos family for signing me to two extensions, all my teammates. I’m a person that really cares about what people think about me. To see the way that they reacted today was really special.”
Check Roch Kubatko’s blog for more of Hardy’s postgame interview today.