The red-hot relief corps & Hardy

There hasn’t been a lot to feel good about regarding the Orioles this season, but their recent stretch –with wins in 11 of 16 after Thursday’s victory – has been fun to watch. Particularly, the performance of their bullpen and the continued “wow” factor of J.J. Hardy at shortstop.

It’s tough to really measure how valuable he is to this team, but there’s at least one or two plays a game that are above-average, that Hardy makes look routine.

Right-handed reliever Pedro Strop, who has emerged as a viable late-inning presence for the Orioles , extended his scoreless stretch to 8 2/3 innings with a big eighth inning Thursday night. After Jason Berken posted two scoreless innings to follow starter Zach Britton, Strop pitched around a one-out double from cleanup hitter Miguel Cabrera to hold off the Tigers’ middle-of-the-order bats.

“I feel good about it, but I’m not impressed because I know what I can do,” said Strop, who spent most of the season in Triple-A. “I just haven’t [gotten] the opportunity and I’m getting it right now and I’m doing my thing.”

*Speaking of opportunities, closer Kevin Gregg made good on his chance in the ninth inning, pitching a 1-2-3 inning to pick up his first save since Sept. 2. With Jim Johnson –who has been getting nearly all of the team’s save opportunities the past two weeks –unavailable to go for a fourth consecutive day, Gregg took care of the Tigers for his 21st save this season.
“ I want every save op that I can; I think that’s our job and that’s what I do,” Gregg said. “But I haven’t been consistent at it, going through a little rough patch. And it’s nice to reward J.J. for the year he has had. He deserves it. He has done an outstanding job. But I think I showed [Thursday night] I could still do it and I still believe in myself.”

“You don’t do some of the things he’s done in his career without some intestinal fortitude,” manager Buck Showalter added. “[Gregg is] not going to wallow around in self-pity.”

*As for Hardy, it was just another routine night as he clobbered a pitch for his 29th homer (extending on his career-high) and turned several outstanding double plays.

“I just hope everybody else around the league understands how good of  a shortstop [he is],” Showalter said. “I  can’t imagine a shortstop playing at a higher level than he’s playing at.”

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