HOUSTON — Nelson Cruz has clearly been the Baltimore Orioles' most valuable player this season. And, with so many of the key players missing time with injuries, the Orioles were understandably frightened when they saw the major league home run and RBI leader writhing in pain.
Scott Feldman had just hit Cruz with a pitch, and it wasn't until much later in Sunday's game that the Orioles found out the slugger had escaped serious injury.
Cruz has a bruised left hand and hopes to play on Tuesday in Texas. Without him for most of the game, his teammates picked him up and beat the Houston Astros 9-4 before 17,022 at Minute Maid Park.
Feldman (3-3) and Cruz were teammates for many years with the Rangers, and while Cruz said he didn't think there was any intent to hit him, it was scary nonetheless.
"Anytime you get hit in the hand you get concerned. I tried to stay but I wasn't able to grab the bat. So hopefully tomorrow I'll be good," Cruz said.
The injury occurred in the third inning, and while manager Buck Showalter left Cruz on the basepaths, and he even stole a base on a double steal, he didn't take the field for the bottom of the inning.
"I knew he wasn't going to hit going to first. I just told him to keep his hand up when he was sliding and then we'd reevaluate it between innings," Showalter said. "At that point, if it's fine he can grip a bat. I didn't like some of the body language he had going on, but he's a pretty tough guy. I didn't like him getting hit there, either."
Cruz would like to play on Tuesday in his return to Arlington, Texas, but says he is treating it like any other day.
"You just treat it like another game. So see how it feels and just go from there," Cruz said.
Manny Machado's grand slam sparked a six-run sixth, equaling Baltimore's biggest inning of the season.
David Lough had three RBIs, including a two-run home run, his first with the Orioles (28-27). Jonathan Schoop broke an 0-for-14 slump with three hits.
Wei-Yin Chen (6-2) became the staff's first six-game winner, working 5 1/3 innings, allowing a run on six hits to the Astros (24-34).
Feldman gave up all nine runs.
Lough was expected to be an offensive force for Baltimore, but he hasn't produced. With his two hits on Sunday, he's batting .176.
"It was good for the team and for me. I've been struggling at the plate obviously and when I hit it I knew it had a good chance of getting out of here and putting us up 2-0 and getting us going for our offense today," Lough said.
HUNTER WILL WAIT: Showalter said that Tommy Hunter, who is on the disabled list with a left groin injury, won't be ready to pitch when he's eligible to come off the DL on Thursday.
Hunter threw a bullpen session in Bowie on Sunday, and will fly to Texas on Monday and throw in the bullpen on Tuesday. He may go out on a rehab assignment on Thursday, Showalter said. Hunter will need at least two rehab appearances before he's ready to be reactivated, which Showalter now says won't come before June 9.
NOT SO FAST ON WIETERS: Showalter said that Matt Wieters, who threw for the second time since being placed on the disabled list on May 11, isn't on the fast track to return. He's not likely to return in two weeks.
"I'm not going to go into timeframes right now. I would say that's doubtful, but I've learned to never doubt somebody like Matt," Showalter said.
The Orioles would like to see Wieters either play by July 1 or get season-ending surgery then, which would enable him to be ready for the start of next season.
"It's an important decision not only for us but for his career," Showalter said.
NOTES: Nick Markakis was the designated hitter, a day after nearly being scratched with a stiff neck. … Lough played right field for the first time this season. … Cruz's 12-game hitting streak ended.