Hardy, Sisco lift Orioles to win over Rays in home finale
BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday, so they made sure that Sunday would feature a proper thank you to a long-time teammate who might be leaving.
J.J. Hardy homered and earned three standing ovations while Chance Sisco added a two-run shot as the Orioles ended their home season in style with a 9-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards.
Hardy, playing in what might have been his final home game as an Oriole, received a standing ovation from fans and teammates before his first at-bat. He belted a tie-breaking two-run shot in the fourth inning, giving the Orioles (75-82) the lead for good.
“It caught me off guard, and I had to fight some emotions,” Hardy said about the initial ovation. “It was very well appreciated.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the team was quiet about their plan to give the shortstop some applause. Showalter often praises Hardy, who lost his starting job while on the disabled list with newly acquired Tim Beckham playing very well.
Hardy’s contract runs out this year, with a club option for next season. This was his seventh season with the Orioles.
“J.J. has delivered a lot of things the team has needed over the course of his time here,” Showalter said. “We’ll see what the future brings. He’s one of those guys, everybody says you don’t how good he is until he’s gone, I think everybody here knows how good he is.”
Hardy said he’s not sure what the future holds. The shortstop said he’ll wait and see how he feels and what options are available to him.
“I know they’re not going to pick up my option, but I feel like there’s probably still a percentage, small chance that I could come back,” Hardy said. “I feel like I’m an Oriole. I’ll be an Oriole for life, and these seven years, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
In fact, the Orioles weren’t the only group to show Hardy appreciation. Many of the Rays also were standing and applauding before that first at-bat.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said he enjoyed watching Hardy receive that kind of adulation.
“It’s funny; baseball has a special way of appreciating really good players,” Cash said. “I don’t know J.J. at all ... it was pretty cool the way it all worked out. It’s good to see good things happen to good players.”
Meanwhile, Sisco was playing in just his seventh major league game. The catcher added his two-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Orioles some insurance over the Rays (76-80).
Since the Twins won, Tampa Bay’s “tragic number” for elimination is down to one.
Chris Tillman needed to step in as the last-minute starter when the Orioles announced less than 90 minutes before first pitch that Dylan Bundy could not go because of a left hamstring strain.
However, Tillman lasted just four innings, giving up four runs on six hits.
Mychal Givens (8-1) got the win with 1 2/3 innings of shutout relief.
Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer (9-12) lost his fifth straight decision, allowing six runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“I just didn’t have great action on my slider,” Archer said. “At least consistently. That’s a good hitting team. If you give them enough opportunities they’re going to do damage.”
The Rays took a quick lead when Kevin Kiermaier homered on the game’s first pitch, but the Orioles answered with four runs in the bottom of the first.
Adam Jones lined a two-run double to right, followed by a Chris Davis RBI single. Two batters later, a Pedro Alvarez RBI single gave Baltimore the 4-1 lead.
But the Rays needed only three batters to tie it in the second. Adeiny Hechavarria led off with a double and scored on a Brad Miller single. Jesus Sucre then hit a two-run homer to left.
Hardy snapped the tie — and earned another standing ovation — with his two-run homer to left off Archer in the fourth, giving Baltimore a 6-4 lead.
The shortstop received his third standing ovation on his final at-bat in the eighth.
Sisco added his two-run blast off Jake Faria in the sixth to make it 8-4.
Davis notched his second RBI on a slow groundout to first in the seventh.
NOTES: Baltimore Orioles CF Adam Jones left the game after three innings due to what the team called “general leg soreness.” That’s been an issue for him in recent days. ... Baltimore SS Tim Beckham is out after hurting his hamstring Saturday. SS J.J. Hardy, the former starter, stepped in for him. ... Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash gave 3B Evan Longoria, C Wilson Ramos and RF Steven Souza Jr. the day off, hoping to give them some rest heading into the final week. ... CF Kevin Kiermaier’s home run on the first pitch of the game was Tampa Bay’s 10th lead-off homer this season — and his third.