MILWAUKEE -- Through the Orioles’ ups and downs this season -- and there have been plenty already -- there has been one constant: Nelson Cruz.
Boy, has that guy been tremendous.
Cruz hit two more homers last night, and he now leads the major leagues with 19. He has 48 RBIs, the most in the American League and just one shy of the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton for the major league lead. He's batting .306 -- 10th in the AL -- with a .376 on-base percentage and an awesome .663 slugging percentage.
As good as Cruz has been throughout his career, his major league high for homers is 33 and RBIs is 90. The Orioles are 51 games into the season, and he’s more than halfway to those totals.
Heck, he’s on pace for 60 homers right now.
“I’ve known Nelson for quite a while, and I haven’t seen him this locked in for this long. I think it bodes well,” Showalter said. “He’s got a pretty good feel for what he’s got to do. He may get out of whack a little bit for a day, [but] you just don’t feel like he’s going to get himself out.”
Remember, this is a guy who was signed to a one-year, $8 million deal this offseason. Part of that was because he was tied to draft-pick compensation, but some of it also was because he was suspended last year in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.
“He’s in a good place. It’s fun to watch him. You get out of the way, and you have a few moments where you go, ‘Really?’ He makes it look easy, but it’s not, what he’s doing,” Showalter said. “I know what he has been through, and he will be the first to tell you, it was self-inflicted. But he has come back in great fashion.”
Orioles starting pitcher Bud Norris said he is amazed at what Cruz has done since Opening Day.
“To have him in Baltimore is outstanding. He’s a great guy in the clubhouse this year, but the season he's having this year is truly remarkable,” Norris said. “We don't want him to cool off at all and just keep going.”
For his part, the mild-mannered Cruz said he doesn’t ever remember having a stretch like this in the majors.
“Maybe in the minors, something like that, but not in the big leagues,” he said. “I think the approach I’ve been taking the past few weeks has been pretty good.”
Like early AL Most Valuable Player good.