SAN FRANCISCO -- J.J. Hardy hit his 20th home run on Friday night. He’s the third Orioles shortstop with three straight 20 home run seasons. Miguel Tejada and Cal Ripken are the others.
“I feel like throughout my career, I’ve had my ups and downs. It’s been kind of a rollercoaster. I’ve always said that if I can stay consistent, I’d be a lot better. It’s nice to be able to do it three years in a row. Consistency is big in this game,” Hardy said.
Entering Saturday’s game, Hardy had 55 strikeouts, well below the pace of last year’s 106. He says it’s not a big deal.
“I think maybe more aggressive early on in the count, put the ball in play. Sometimes, honestly, I feel like a strikeout wouldn’t be that big a deal anyway. When I take a swing early in the count, and it’s a pitch that’s off the plate and put it in play weakly, I get [annoyed] and wished I would have swing and missed to give myself two more chances. For me, a strikeout as long as there’s no one on third base and less than two outs is the same thing as a rollover to shortstop. I don’t know how many times I’ve done that.”
In spring training, manager Buck Showalter made it a point to say he wanted to move Hardy out of the second hole. It’s helped.
“It has. Just with RBI chances, and you know what else has helped? Adam Jones, Markakis, Davis, Machado. All those guys are getting on base, so it seems like every at-bat, I’ve got somebody on base. It’s a pretty solid lineup,” Hardy said.
Showalter likes how it’s turned out.
“I just thought it fit us better. It really allowed us to take advantage of his skill set offensively to have him down a little bit. And I’m not a big believe in the batting order meaning that much, I think it’s kind of overrated, you got a couple guys you want to make sure it’s a tough decision if they want to walk him. J.J. presents a lot of things he can do for us on a given day, offensively,” Showalter said.