First thing’s first; Nelson Cruz was hit by a pitch in the top of the third inning yesterday, and was forced to leave the game. Houston starter (and former Oriole) Scott Feldman said that it was not intentional, and to be honest I would be inclined to believe him. Feldman actually does hit quite a few batters over the course of a season. However that aside, the Baltimore Orioles pinch hit Delmon Young for Cruz in his next turn at the plate. Cruz said after the game that his had was swollen and that in effect it was a day-to-day thing.
Starter Wei-Yin Chen had a statistically good outing, however he was unable to go deep into the game. Chen’s line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K. As I’ve said before, the six strikeouts in and of themselves add to pitchers making early exits. If you figure that six strikeouts requires a bare minimum of 18 pitches, that’s almost a full inning’s worth of work right there.
The O’s struck first in the second inning when David Lough came to the plate following a Jonathan Schoop single. Lough has looked lost at the plate on various occasions this year, however in this case he connected when the Orioles needed him. He sent a two-run homer to right field on a 2-2 count to give the Birds a 2-0 lead. They would tack on another run an inning later after a double-steal exercised by Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz, and Adam Jones would hit a sac fly to left field to give the O’s a 3-0 lead.
While Houston would chime in with an RBI-single by Chris Carter in the last of the fourth, the best was yet to come for the Baltimore Orioles. David Lough would come through again in the top of the sixth with an RBI-single (with nobody gone) to give the O’s a 4-1 lead. Nick Hundley would tack on a sac fly-RBI, and Houston would intentionally walk Nick Markakis. That brought Manny Machado to the plate, and on a 2-2 pitch he connected – and big time at that. Machado’s first career grand slam gave the O’s a 9-1 lead.
Houston would tack on three runs in the seventh and eighth for good measure, however Brian Matusz closed the game out in the last of the ninth and the O’s earned themselves a series split in Houston.
I mentioned above about Chen only pitching 5.1 innings; as I said, if you were going to use the bullpen a bit yesterday was the day to do it. The Orioles are off today in Dallas, so again the bullpen will be well-rested before the series with Texas. The sizable lead the Orioles had also served as fodder for Chen coming out when he did. Buck Showalter figured that with the team ahead 9-1 at the time, it might not be a bad idea to provide some additional rest for one of his starters also.
Obviously the big concern is now Nelson Cruz, who after the game said he couldn’t even grip a bat (which is why he was lifted). The Orioles said that it was a contusion and x-rays came back negative, so that might be somewhat promising. I know that the Orioles weren’t happy with the fact that this happened, however as I said my personal opinion was that it was not intentional. Having said that, Brian Matusz did hit Marwin Gonzalez with two outs in the ninth – I’m not sure that’s the time in the game to “send a message,” but infer from that what you wish.