HOUSTON – It was a frightening moment. Nelson Cruz crumbled in back of home plate, writhing in pain. Scott Feldman just hit him with a pitch, and suddenly, the major league home run and RBI leader’s immediate future was in doubt.
When he left the game at the end of the inning, there was more concern. Cruz was taken to the hospital and after an X-Ray, he was diagnosed with a bruised left hand. Wearing a bandage on his hand, Cruz was hopeful he would play on Tuesday in Texas.
The Orioles don’t play on Monday, giving Cruz an extra day to rest. In his absence, his teammates backed him with a 9-4 win over the Houston Astros before 17,022 at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.
“Anytime you get hit in the hand you get concerned. I tried to stay but I wasn't able to grab the bat. So hopefully tomorrow I'll be good,” Cruz said.
Cruz and Feldman were longtime teammates with the Rangers, but the slugger said that he didn’t think he was thrown at intentionally.
“I don't think so, you know. Maybe he tried to go in, you know. I know the catcher went and talked to him before I got hit so I was maybe thinking they tried to pitch me around something,” Cruz said.
Feldman (3-3, who was charged with all nine runs, denied there was any intent.
“I didn't want to hit him. I checked after the game to make sure he was all right and they said it was just a bruise so that was a little relieving. It happens, it's part of the game trying to pitch inside. He's been swinging the bat well. Obviously I didn't want to give him a free base but I didn't want to let him go up there and hit one off the wall either,” Feldman said.
With 20 home runs and 52 RBIs, Cruz has been a puzzle to opponents.
“They’ve tried the kitchen sink,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Right now, they’re throwing everything at him.”
Cruz was making his return to Arlington, Tex., where he played from 2006-13.
“You just treat it like another game. So see how it feels and just go from there,” Cruz said.
When Cruz left, the Orioles had a 3-1 lead. In the fifth, they equaled their biggest inning of the season with six runs, highlighted by Manny Machado’s first career grand-slammer.
“It’s huge. We haven’t really put the pieces together. Pitching does well one day. Our hitting will come through,” Machado said.
The Orioles (28-27) scored two runs in losing the first two games of the series, but scored 13 in the final two.
“That’s something that we needed. We needed some momentum going into Texas,” Machado said.
David Lough had his first home run with the Orioles. He drove in three runs, equaling a career high, with a two run homer and a bases loaded single in the sixth.
“It was good for the team and for me. I’ve been struggling at the plate obviously and when I hit it I knew it had a good chance of getting out of here and putting us up 2-0 and getting us going for our offense today,” Lough said.
Acquired from Kansas City for Danny Valencia last December, the Orioles hoped Lough would spark their offense. He’s still hitting just .176.
“Hopefully I can get it going offensively, Lough said.
Wei-Yin Chen (6-2) pitched 5 1/3 innings, and gave up a run on six hits, walking one and striking out six.
Chen was displeased when Showalter took him out after 97 pitches, but he is the staff leader with six wins.
“I felt good out there and I was kind of hoping i could go deeper in the game,” Chen said through his translator.
“I was happy about the result. Our team played good defense behind me and score a lot of runs. That’s why I get those six wins.”
Brad Brach allowed a run in the seventh. Preston Guilmet gave up a two-run home run to Matt Dominguez in the eighth. Houston (24-34) cut the lead to 9-4.
Brian Matusz pitched a scoreless ninth.
Showalter gets to return to his second home, Dallas and sleep in his own bed for four nights with his team looking for its first three-game winning streak since May 6-10 when they won five straight.
“We strung together some good at-bats. I think the off-day is coming at a right time. It's been a long time,” Showalter said.
NOTES: Cruz’s hitting streak ends at 12 games. …Orioles pitchers struck out 12. …The Orioles open a three-game series in Texas on Tuesday. Ubaldo Jimenez (2-6, 4.65) faces Joe Saunders (0-1, 4.15).