Hardy's homer propels Orioles past Giants

Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN FRANCISCO -- J.J. Hardy knows a home run when he sees one. Usually.
That's why nobody in AT&T Park was more surprised than the Baltimore Orioles' slugging shortstop Sunday afternoon when his seventh-inning flyball to left field reached the first row of the bleachers.
Hardy's two-run home run off Matt Cain gave the Orioles a lead they never relinquished, and Adam Jones added the crowning blow with a three-run shot in the ninth in a 10-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
"I never thought home run all the way," said Hardy, who came to bat with the Orioles down 2-1 and struggling to solve Cain (7-8), the Giants starter.
Hardy, who leads all major-league shortstops in home runs this season, took three glances at Giants left fielder Jeff Francoeur during the ball's long flight. He didn't like what he was seeing.
"It looked like he had it all the way," Hardy observed. "First I thought he was going to catch it short of the track. Then I thought he was going to catch it on the track. Then I thought he was going to catch it at the fence.
"I think it was the wind."
Hardy's 21st home run not only gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead but also ignited a nine-run assault in the final three innings as Baltimore won two of three to capture its 10th road series of the season. The Orioles have won four of five on their current eight-game swing through the National League West.
Baltimore got only five hits off Cain in seven innings, but three went for extra bases, including a sixth-inning triple by Brian Roberts that helped produce the Orioles' first run.
Hardy credited Orioles starter Bud Norris, who struggled through five innings of two-run ball after waking up with a sore back, and the flawless Baltimore defense for making the late comeback possible.
"We take pride in our defense," he said. "We work hard on it; it's showing this year. It's something we don't take lightly.
"When we weren't scoring, it's all about keeping the game close. (Norris) did that. Eventually we're going to score runs."
In running their record in the state of California to 10-3 this season, the Orioles broke the game open in the eighth against the San Francisco bullpen. Nick Markakis, Jones and Matt Wieters had RBI hits in the four-run inning.
Jones' homer, a no-doubt blast to left field, came against Giants mop-up man Barry Zito with one out in the ninth. It was Jones' 24th home run of the season and raised his RBI total to a career-best 85, fourth-best in the American League.
"We kept fighting, kept scratching," said Jones, one of three Orioles with two hits in a 12-hit attack. "It couldn't have happened if Bud hadn't kept us in the game. Cain was good all day."
Left-hander Troy Patton (2-0), who relieved starter Norris in the sixth, got the win after pitching one shutout inning. In all, five Baltimore pitchers combined on a seven-hitter.
In his third start for the Orioles since being acquired from Houston, Norris went five innings, holding the Giants scoreless after a two-run first. He got a no-decision after giving up six hits and two walks. He struck out two.
Pitching in front of a large group of family and friends, the San Francisco Bay Area native needed two defensive gems behind him to escape big-time damage in the first two innings.
The Giants scored twice in the first on RBI doubles by Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence. A sensational running catch by Jones in center field on the game's second batter, Brandon Crawford, minimized the damage.
The Giants didn't score in the second, but would have scored had Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth not made a sliding catch on a Belt looper with two on and two out.
"I get to watch it every night," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his defense, which played error-free ball the entire series. "You can't make the ball be hit to your best defenders, so it's nice to have eight of them."
Cain, who had allowed two or fewer runs in all four of his previous starts since the All-Star break, took the loss. He gave up three runs in seven innings, walked one and struck out five.
The Giants' Crawford, like so many of the Orioles, pointed to the first two innings as being critical to the game's outcome.
"We score two runs early and then kind of sit on that two-run lead like that's all we need," he said. "A lot of times with our pitchers, it is. But we've got to pile on."
Marco Scutaro and Pence had two hits apiece for the Giants.
NOTES: The all-time interleague series between the two teams is now tied at 6-6. ... The Orioles got at least one hit from all nine spots in the batting order. ... Baltimore has recorded 89 errorless games this season, nine more than any other team in the American League. ... The Giants haven't won a home series since going 4-2 against Washington and Colorado from May 20-26. ... The Orioles complete their eight-game trip with a three-game set at Arizona. RHP Scott Feldman pitches the opener Monday night. ... The Giants open a six-game road trip Tuesday in Washington.

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