Putting the Team on his Back
By Mike Franz
Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Orioles took the series finale against the Rays today by a score of 7-5. By winning this game, the Orioles escaped the series sweep and avoided back-to-back road series sweeps.
The last time the Orioles lost back-to-back road series was in 2011. Baltimore can thank Nelson Cruz and Nelson Cruz alone for that.
Down 3-0 in the sixth inning after the Rays hit three homers (two out of the park and one inside the park), Cruz stepped up to the plate with a man on first base. With an 0-2 count, Cruz drove the ball to deep left field for his 38th home run of the season to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Cruz was not done yet. In the ninth inning, Baltimore trailed the Rays 4-2. With the bases loaded and one out, Cruz ripped a ball down the first base line for a bases clearing, three RBI double, giving the Birds the 5-4 lead.
After a costly error from Ryan Flaherty came back to haunt the Orioles as the Rays tied up the score at 5-a-piece, the game headed into extra innings.
After both teams failed to score a run in the tenth inning, Cruz was due up in the top of the eleventh inning. After Nick Hundley walked, Cruz jumped on the first pitch of his at-bat and drove the ball to the deepest part of the ballpark for his 39th home run to regain the lead.
This home run would prove to be the decider as Andrew Miller closed out the game and earned his first save with the Orioles.
In sports, everyone talks about the captain or leader “putting the team on his back.” Cruz did just that with two home runs and an unbelievable seven RBI. Performances like these may cause Dan Duquette to rethink about which player is most important to resign in the off-season.
For me, the order in which the Orioles resign their free agents should go like this.
2) Nelson Cruz
3) J.J. Hardy
Do you agree? Comment below either way.