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J.J. Hardy stars as Orioles take down Rays, 9-4, in last home game of season

For J.J. Hardy, Sunday’s game may have been his last in an Orioles uniform. He delivered the go-ahead homer for the O’s as they went on to beat the Rays.

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Orioles have stumbled a lot at times this season and particularly the month of September, but they were able to put on a nice show for the fans in the final home game of the year on Sunday afternoon. This included a fine farewell from the Baltimore fans to veteran Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. The O’s took down the Rays in the game, 9-4.

Although the Orioles did end up winning the game, it was a suitably 2017 O’s game from the outset. That feeling started before the game even began, as the originally-scheduled Orioles starter, Dylan Bundy, was scratched from that start about an hour and a half before first pitch with what was announced as a left hamstring strain.

Bundy’s late absence led to Chris Tillman being pressed into service. The first pitch that Tillman threw in the game was a home run hit by Kevin Kiermaier. One pitch and one run is impressive efficiency, really. That was the 22nd home run Tillman had surrendered on the season. This wouldn’t be a bad number if Tillman had a full season’s worth of innings. He does not.

Despite a September of pathetic offensive outcomes, the Orioles were able to hang some runs on the board to support Tillman, starting in the first inning of the game. Facing Rays strikeout machine Chris Archer, who has had a decent season, the O’s showed up ready to play.

The O’s rallied for four first inning runs off of Archer. It was very un-Orioles-like because they didn’t hit a home run to score any one of those runs. At one point, the O’s had four straight hits, with Adam Jones driving in two runs on a double that gave the O’s a lead. Later on in the inning, Chris Davis even stole a base and eventually scored.

The long inning with a number of O’s coming to the plate gave a chance for J.J. Hardy to bat. Recognizing that this could be his last home game as an Oriole, teammates and fans gave Hardy a standing ovation as he was announced for his first at-bat. You can see it for yourself here.

Could Tillman hold that lead? No, of course not. It’s 2017 and nothing is allowed to go right for him or for the O’s rotation in general. Tillman was so bad that he gave back the three run lead before he even recorded an out in the top of the second inning. That’s Tillman for you this year. Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tied the game again with a two-run shot. It’s not going on the career highlight reel for Tillman.

Somehow, Tillman put together a couple of scoreless innings after that. He came out of the game after only four innings pitched, having allowed four runs on six hits and a walk, with two home runs allowed. That makes 23 homers surrendered in 91 innings for Tillman. What a disaster.

Still, the game was tied at that point - but not for long. The bottom of the fourth saw the O’s retake the lead when Hardy’s Baltimore farewell party was given a dramatic boost. Hardy himself crushed a two-run home run into the left field seats to put the O’s up, 6-4. The fans gave Hardy a curtain call after the perfectly-scripted moment.

As the game played out, this would be all the offense that the O’s would need to win. In a departure from much of their September action, they continued to score after a flurry of offense, adding another couple of runs in the sixth inning when Chance Sisco hit his second big league homer and one more in the seventh.

Sisco now has two home runs in seven big league at-bats. Not bad considering he had seven all year in Triple-A. It was a blast pulled into the seats in right-center field that cleared the fence by more than a few feet. Good way to mark his first career big league start behind the plate.

Four Orioles relievers combined to keep the Rays off the board for the remainder of the game, with Darren O’Day going the longest by completing the final two innings of the game.

In all, the Orioles ended up with 13 hits. Every member of the starting lineup got a hit in the game except for Austin Hays. Four different O’s had multi-hit games, headlined by the three hits from freshly-minted Most Valuable Oriole Jonathan Schoop. The O’s second baseman was presented with his MVO award prior to the game.

Trey Mancini extended a hitting streak to 14 games, getting it in under the wire with a two out single in the eighth inning. He’s one game away from tying the record hitting streak for an Orioles rookie. There are still some scattered things to cheer for in this lost season. Not many, but they’re there.

The Orioles have an off day on Monday before getting a two-game set in Pittsburgh underway on Tuesday night. Kevin Gausman and Chad Kuhl are the scheduled starters for the 7:05 series opener.

Poll

Who was the Most Birdland Player for September 24, 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    J.J. Hardy (go-ahead home run in final O’s home game)
    (306 votes)
  • 3%
    Trey Mancini (extended hitting streak to 14 games)
    (12 votes)
  • 4%
    Jonathan Schoop (three hits on the day he got his MVO award)
    (14 votes)
332 votes total Vote Now