Thoughts on the Orioles' offense, Nelson Cruz and Bud Norris

NEW YORK – The Orioles go into Wednesday afternoon's game against the New York Yankees still trailing the Los Angeles Angels by 2 1/2 games  -- two games in the loss column – for the top record in the American League and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Orioles have five games left to play; the Angels have four.

After the Orioles were held to one hit Monday, they responded with 17 hits in Tuesday's 5-4 win. Seeing leadoff hitter Nick Markakis get four hits, including a two-run homer – his first hits since returning from taking a pitch in the right shoulder – was a good sign for the Orioles.


And manager Buck Showalter hopes to get Steve Pearce back Thursday. Pearce is set to take batting practice before Wednesday's game to test his right wrist.

** There's no concern about Nelson Cruz at the plate. Cruz hit his 40th homer of the season on Tuesday, becoming the sixth Orioles player to do so. He joins Chris Davis (53 in 2013), Brady Anderson (50 in 1996), Frank Robinson (49 in 1966), Jim Gentile (46 in 1961) and Rafael Palmeiro (43 in 1998) in that category.


Cruz's 40 homers are the second-most by a player in his first year with the Orioles. Robinson hit 49 during his 1966 Triple Crown season after being traded to Baltimore from the Cincinnati Reds. Cruz's total is also the second-most in club history by a right-handed hitter.

Cruz hasn't been able to duplicate his tremendous 28-homer first half, but he's hitting .360/.400/.640 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 22 September games. Comparatively, Cruz hit just .216 in August and .211 in July.

** The Orioles had a scare Tuesday when Derek Jeter stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning with the tying run on first base after Brett Gardner reached on an infield single.

Orioles fans have seen that situation play out many times – Jeter coming to the plate late in the game with a chance to get a big hit – and it seemed like every fan at Yankee Stadium was on its feet when Jeter stepped to the plate.

But closer Zach Britton made quick work of Jeter, striking him out on three pitches.

Another sign that these are much different times in the Orioles-Yankees series.

** Right-hander Bud Norris will start Wednesday's game, and he's 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees.  He won his only start at Yankee Stadium, when he allowed one run and three hits in five innings in a 7-5 victory June 21. That was also the game in which Norris left early with groin tightness.

Norris has turned in scoreless outings in three of his past four appearances. The Orioles have won his past five starts and eight of his past nine.


Norris has struggled in day games this season, going 2-4 with a 5.75 ERA in seven games. He is 12-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 20 night starts.