New uniform, same pop for Cruz in Baltimore
BALTIMORE -- Back in a familiar spot as he approached the batter's box at Camden Yards, Nelson Cruz tried to take in the moment.
In his first game back in Baltimore since signing a four-year deal with the Mariners in the offseason, Cruz received a warm reception from the 19,494 fans in attendance, who showered him with cheers and chants of 'Cruuuz.'
"That was nice," Cruz said after the Mariners' eventual 9-4 loss. "The whole game in right field, I heard good things [from the fans], so that makes you feel good."
In the hours leading up to the game, Cruz shared his desire to receive some "love" from the fans. Orioles manager Buck Showalter agreed.
"I'd cheer for him with all of my heart," Showalter said. "I know that's what I would do."
As the ovation poured down, Cruz stepped out of the batter's box, savoring the moment and flashing a wide smile.
"Maybe the first at-bat, it just kind of hits you," he said, "but after that you have to go about your business."
Cruz did just that, lining a shot up the middle for a single in his first at-bat before connecting on a three-run home run to left center field to give Seattle a 4-1 lead in the third inning.
Cruz, who hit a Major League-leading 40 home runs last season and helped lead the Orioles to their first American League East title since 1997, hasn't missed a beat since joining Seattle.
His Major League-leading 16th home run of the season came on a 76-mph curveball from former teammate Miguel Gonzalez. It also gave Cruz his team-leading 16th multihit game.
"He's been great," said left fielder Seth Smith, who opened the game with a leadoff home run. "He's fun to watch. We're definitely glad to have him as a teammate and it's been great to see him [produce] -- both for himself and the team. It's just too bad we couldn't get the job done tonight."
Cruz, who finished 2-for-3 with a walk, has now hit safely in 13 of 16 games in May, during which time he's batting .383, with 12 runs, six home runs and 11 RBIs.
His night was hardly perfect, though, with a key misplay in right field.
With the Mariners down, 7-4, in the seventh inning, Orioles left fielder Travis Snider hit a single to right field that skipped past Cruz toward the warning track. The error allowed Steve Pearce to score all the way from first base to give Baltimore a four-run cushion.
"I have no excuse on that," Cruz said. "That's just a routine play. I shouldn't have let it go. That's my fault.
"Unfortunately, we didn't play that we're supposed to -- to win the game. It's a shame, but we'll forget about what we did today and try again tomorrow."