In Nelson Cruz, Orioles acquired a proven Red Sox tormentor
By By Jon Meoli
The Baltimore Sun|
Apr 21, 2014 | 11:53 AM
Nelson Cruz didn't become a two-time All-Star with Texas by picking on any particular team, but his track record of success against one Orioles rival is becoming evident.
Cruz's first-inning home run Sunday was his third this season against the Boston Red Sox, and his third-inning RBI single Monday morning gave him his ninth RBI of the season against Boston. Cruz entered Monday's game with a .304/.360/.696 batting line against Boston — an output that, if sustained, would make Cruz well worth his one-year deal.
But a look at Cruz' Baseball Reference page shows the veteran outfielder is well-versed in bashing Boston. The 33-year-old Cruz has 15 home runs and 42 RBIs in 47 career games against Boston. Entering Monday morning, his career 1.116 OPS against the Red Sox is his highest among American League opponents, and well above his career .823 OPS. By comparison, Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera led the majors with a 1.078 OPS in 2013. The highest career OPS belongs to Baltimore's own Babe Ruth, who posted a 1.164 OPS.
Cruz debuted in 2005 with Milwaukee, but he didn't play against Boston until 2007, when he collected a pair of hits and four RBIs in five games against the eventual World Series champions. In September 2008, Cruz hit two home runs and drove in six runs in a three-game series against Boston.
Three of his five hits against Boston went for extra bases in four 2009 games against Boston, and in 2010, Cruz had a home run and 10 RBIs with a .486/.537/.757 line in nine games versus the Red Sox. His lowest season line against Boston was in 2011, when he hit .261//292/.652 — though three of his six hits that year were home runs.
Cruz's second All-Star campaign, in 2012, was aided by a .333/.429/.733 line against Boston, with three home runs and five RBIs to his credit. In his final year with Texas, 2013, Cruz hit posted a .904 OPS against the Red Sox.
That Cruz has continued to mash against Boston in the young season could provide the edge the Orioles are looking for in what will surely be a tight pennant race. Entering the season, baseball pundits were concerned that the stacked AL East would feast on itself.
Though the quality hasn't been what was expected — the five teams are all hovering around .500 — just two games separates the five teams. Having a Red Sox killer in the lineup for the Orioles' remaining games against Boston could be the difference between a playoff spot or a second straight year without October baseball.