TORONTO — Even though he has only three hits in his past 39 at-bats, Orioles left fielder-designated hitter Nelson Cruz said he believes he's on the verge of breaking out of the slump.
Cruz carried the Orioles offense for most of the first half of the season, leading the major leagues with 28 home runs and 74 RBIs at the All-Star break. But after going 1-for-4 on Thursday, he is hitting just .113 with one homer and three RBIs since making his third All-Star Game appearance last month. Since the break, his average has dropped 29 points from .287 to .258.
Cruz admits that he’s prone to streaks, and he said he knew he wasn’t going to keep producing at the pace of his phenomenal first half. But he said he has tried to maintain the same routine while having faith that he will break out of the slump soon.
“I think it’s more to keep doing what you’re doing, just find the right stroke,” Cruz said. “You can watch videos and hit off the tee, stuff like that, but at the same time, it’s you against the pitcher. I just need one swing or one pitch to click and you can find your swing.
“I feel like it’s there. I feel like I’m close. The last few games, I feel like I’ve had some good swings, and I’ve taken some good pitches. It’s just a matter of time before I come out [of it]. I think the main thing is staying consistent in your routine and continue doing what you’re doing.”
Cruz was 6-for-13 with five runs, three homers and eight RBIs in the Orioles' first trip to Toronto this season, but he was just 2-for-10 with two RBIs in this series.
Cruz said opposing pitchers might be pitching him differently, but it’s more about refining his approach at the plate.
“Probably a little bit, but it’s more finding my pitch to hit and not swinging at a pitcher’s pitch,” Cruz said. “It’s tough to stay consistent as I was for 162 games. The only thing you can do is battle.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter also said he has seen some recent strides with Cruz that would seem to suggest he’s about to break out of his funk.
“It’s always there,” Showalter said. “It’s not that easy. You have to have some cooperation from the pitcher. … I think Nelson’s had some good at-bats. It’s one of those things you go through where it seems like every borderline pitch is a strike and the guy might be wild but he makes three tough pitches on you. Nellie, he’s just trying to shorten it up. He’s close. Like a lot of these guys, if he goes through some struggles, someone’s going to pay for it and it’s always around the corners with guys like him and Chris [Davis].”
Even though Cruz has struggled, the Orioles are 13-7 since the All-Star break without many recent contributions from their top run producer.
“It’s nice,” Cruz said. “You always want to contribute any way you can, but at the same time, when you’re not able to do as much, it’s nice to see the team find a way to win games. The big key for us has been the pitching. The entire pitching staff — the starters and the bullpen — has all done a good job to keep us in the game.”