On Day 2,131, a different Orioles shortstop talks about his homerless streak

HOUSTON - Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy delivered two more hits yesterday afternoon, a single in the fourth inning and another single in the sixth. His average is .306 heading into Tuesday’s series opener against the Rangers in Arlington, second on the team behind Nelson Cruz’s .314.

Hardy also is tied for last in home runs with zero, which is sort of like the elephant in the room - except reporters talked to him about it before yesterday’s game.

We’re not real good at the whole elephant thing.

“I’ve got no explanation,” Hardy said. “Yeah, obviously it crosses my mind, but I try not to think about it as much as I can.”

Hardy won’t change his approach, the one that’s produced the .306 average and nine multi-hit games in the last 14.

“I think the same approach, hits will keep coming,” he said. “Honestly, whenever I’ve hit homers, it’s always come in bunches. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to continue to try to put good at-bats together and get on base and hopefully the homers come.”

He’s not kidding about collecting home runs in bunches.

Take last season, for example. Hardy hit his first home run in the third game on April 4, and his second three days later. He hit three in a four-game span May 4-8, homered in back-to-back games May 15-17, hit one May 28 and two more on June 1 and one on June 5, homered in two of three games June 18-21, and homered in four of six games Aug. 7-13.

You get the sense that the flood gates could open at any time in any city. Start pairing up the animals - beginning with the elephants.

Hardy is batting .426 in a 14-game stretch. And speaking of stretching, he’s doing a lot of it before taking the field.

In a hallway that leads to the dugout entrance, Hardy spent part of yesterday morning loosening up his back before returning to his locker. From a standing position, bending forward with palms touching the floor, on his hands and knees, at times using a cushioned roller (for lack of a better description.)

“Ever since the first week of the season when I hurt my back, I’ve been on a pretty strict back exercise,” said Hardy, who also was bothered by a hamstring injury earlier this year, “but I feel pretty good physically.”

Hardy didn’t come to the plate yesterday with a runner in scoring position, which is fortunate for the Astros. He’s 11-for-28 (.393) with 14 RBIs in those situations, and 7-for-16 (.438) with 10 RBIs with RISP and less than two outs.

Hardy takes pride in delivering in the clutch.

“I think we all do,” he said. “Anytime there’s a runner out there that we can drive in, I think we might focus just a little bit more that at-bat.”

We’ve got one more elephant in the room, folks. I may as well address it.

Today marks my 2,131st consecutive morning filing a blog entry for MASNsports.com. Haven’t missed a day since leaving The Sun.

RochCalSelfie.jpgHow should that number be celebrated? With a selfie taken with Cal Ripken Jr., of course.

Pardon the bad lighting. We’re standing in a hallway outside the press box at Minute Maid Park. And despite the many selfies that I’ve taken this year, I’ve still maintained my amateur status.

Thanks to all of you for making 2,131 possible. I doubt that MASNsports.com would allow me to keep running a blog with zero traffic and zero comments. I may as well just sing into a hairbrush.

My next goal is to end the streak - lower case letters in deference to Mr. Ripken - at 2,632 and let Ryan Minor file for me that day.

See you in Arlington.

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