The Orioles were given quite the scare yesterday when slugger Nelson Cruz was hit on the left hand with a pitch, but the early word is that he’s on track to be in the starting lineup tomorrow against the Rangers.
Fortunately no fracture was found in Cruz’s hand and he’s only dealing with a contusion. The swelling is down and he’s able to grip a bat, so Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com writes that the Orioles are “encouraged” that he’ll be able to play tomorrow. It’s no sure thing, as the final test will be batting practice tomorrow, but the good news is that it’s a day-to-day situation.
Signed to a one-year, $8 million deal over the winter, Cruz has been a tremendous bargain for the Orioles and one of the most productive hitters in the game. The 33-year-old is batting .314/.384/.672 in 54 games and leads the majors with 20 home runs and 52 RBI. He was named the AL Player of the Week earlier today.
Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.
Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.
Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.
Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.
The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.
Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.