CHICAGO — Orioles manager Buck Showalter still is trying to figure out baseball's new rule on home plate collisions.
In the Orioles' 4-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday, third baseman Chris Davis was called out at home as he tried to score from second base. It was obvious that Cubs catcher John Baker made a clean tag on Davis. What wasn't clear was whether he was blocking home plate.
Under a new rule Major League Baseball implemented this year, in an effort to avoid collisions at the plate, a base runner has the right to an unobstructed path to home.
Showalter received a crew chief review — meaning he didn't have to use a challenge for the play to be reviewed — but it took just 55 seconds to uphold the call.
"If that's not blocking the plate, what is?" Showalter said. "I'm totally confused now. I hate even coming out there. We all know the rules got some challenges to it, but boy, I don't know what else. … You tell me. … [Davis] probably took a little wide turn there [to the plate]. I haven't seen it. I'll have to look at it."
Orioles catchers regularly have positioned themselves behind the plate — giving base runners a clear path to home — effectively eliminating the need for backward sweep tags. However, that reliance on the ball's traveling faster than the mitt was designed for tags by 6-foot-5 catcher Matt Wieters, and current catchers Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley have had varied success with the strategy.
Cruz sets new career high
Orioles left fielder Nelson Cruz set a career high with his 34th homer of the season Friday, but after the game, Cruz called it bittersweet.
"It's special," Cruz said. "But, like I've said before, it's not about me. It's about the team. We lost, so whatever I did, it doesn't matter."
Cruz, who leads the majors in homers, is starting to get his power stroke back, after struggling through the second half of the season. Cruz hit 28 homers in the first half of the season and has just six in the second half. But he has homered in three of his past four games.
"The power was always there; it was just kind of off a little bit," Cruz said. "I didn't drive the ball the other way like I used to earlier in the season. It's something I need to start doing."
Wright making late-season strides
Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Mike Wright came within one strike of throwing a no-hitter Thursday night against the Durham Bulls.
Wright went 8 2/3 innings without allowing a hit before yielding a double to Mikie Mahtook on a 1-2 pitch in the ninth inning. Earlier in the inning, shortstop Alexi Casilla committed a throwing error with two outs on a play that could have ended the game.
Wright was named the Orioles' eighth-best prospect by Baseball America before the season, but has struggled this season, going 5-11 with a 4.83 ERA.
He opened the season losing nine of his first 10 decisions, but has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his past six starts and has gone seven or more innings in four of his past six outings.
"You can see that the strike totals on the off-speed pitches are a lot higher," Showalter said. "He's carrying consistent velocity and command of his fastball. I just glanced at [the report] before I came out. It's nice to see two in a row in the end of the year."
Around the horn
With his 1-for-3 afternoon Friday, Joseph has reached safely in nine of his past 11 games and is hitting .323 (11-for-37) over that stretch. … Shortstop J.J. Hardy is hitting .353 (11-for-31) over his past nine games. … First baseman Steve Pearce extended his hitting streak to five games with an eighth-inning single. … Norfolk infielder Jemile Weeks was activated from the disabled list Friday. Weeks was 9-for-16 (.563 average) with three doubles in five rehabiliation games with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles. … Showalter said right-hander Bobby Bundy was throwing 92 to 94 mph in his most recent rehab start at short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Wednesday. Bundy is recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction surgery he underwent last year.