With the score tied at 4 and O's reliever Pedro Strop on for his second inning, Boston's Cody Ross smoked a ball toward center field on which Hardy made a lunging grab. Still on his knees, Hardy fired the ball back to first baseman Chris Davis to double up David Ortiz and clear the bases.
"For me, that's the game," Ross said of Hardy's play. "David goes first to third right there, and I don't know if it possibly could've been a double if it's in the gap. J.J. made a great play and got out of a jam right there. Tough loss."
For the Orioles, it was a win-win -- a game-changer that helped force extra innings and give the bats a chance to work.
"The play by J.J., you just shake your head," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You don't get [O's infielder] Brian Roberts to say 'Wow' much, but that was 'Wow.'"
Coming off a year in which he hit .269, with a career-high 30 homers and tying a career high with 80 RBIs, Hardy has struggled offensively to start the 2012 season, entering Saturday's game batting .194 with four homers and eight RBIs.
"He's a difference-maker," Showalter said. "J.J. is going to contribute in some form or factor [every day]. It might not even be on the field, it might be in the clubhouse. He's a winning player."