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Jimmy Paredes leads O's to 9-4 comeback win over Mariners

Baltimore Orioles slugger Jimmy Parades had another impressive game with two hits, including a home run and four RBIs. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

The buzz around Camden Yards on Tuesday evening focused on the return of Seattle Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz, who made a tremendous mark among teammates and fans in his only season in Baltimore.

And while Cruz did a fair amount of damage against his former team, crushing a three-run homer into the Orioles bullpen, he was outdone by a player he helped mentor late last season.

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Designated hitter Jimmy Paredes, who said Cruz was a big influence on him a year ago, anchored a 9-4 comeback win with a career-high four RBIs.

"That feels great because he's a big man right there," Paredes said of Cruz. "A lot of fans root for something big from him, and we changed the game. We changed the mind of the fans. We had a good game."

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Paredes hit his sixth homer of the year, a two-run opposite-field blast in the Orioles' three-run sixth inning, and added a two-out, two-run single in the fourth inning that tied the game after Cruz's homer gave the Mariners a 4-1 lead a half-inning earlier.

"Jimmy's such a sincere guy," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Those guys give themselves such a chance to be successful because he never gives in in the effort department. I was watching him during the last out. He's in every pitch. I know down deep he'd like to be playing a position right now, but it fits well for us what he's doing. I don't want to mess with him too much."

Despite having played in just 25 games this season after spending the first two weeks of April on the disabled list with a lower back strain, Paredes is the team's second-best run producer. His 22 RBIs trail only Adam Jones' 25.

Paredes and Cruz became fast friends last season after Paredes was called up in late August. Paredes said they still talk and text often, but their career paths haven't been more different. Cruz signed a four-year, $57 million deal with Seattle in the offseason, while Paredes, 26, entered the season fighting for a roster spot with no minor league options remaining, hoping to stick with his fifth different organization.

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"He's so upbeat all the time and I'm always pulling for an underdog, too," catcher Caleb Joseph said of Paredes. "For a guy to get claimed and DFA'd and claimed again and then found a home — we're glad he's on our side because he's been real stable in that two-hole for us."

The nine runs scored by the Orioles on Tuesday were their most in more than three weeks, since an 18-7 win over the Red Sox on April 26.

Cruz received a warm reception from the Camden Yards crowd of 19,494. As he was introduced for his first at-bat, he received a round of applause with a few fans standing. Any boos directed at last season's home-run king were overcome by the familiar chant of "Cruuz."

"I guess, it was just another game," Cruz said. "Maybe the first at-bat was the one that kind of hits you. After that, you've just got to go about your business. … The whole game in right field I heard good things. It makes you feel good."

In his second at-bat, Cruz jumped on a 1-0 hanging curveball from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, sending it beyond the left-center-field fence. Cruz's major league-leading 16th homer of the season gave the Mariners a 4-1 lead in the third.

The Orioles (17-19) went on to score eight unanswered runs, chasing Mariners starter Taijuan Walker from the game after just 3 2/3 innings.

The Orioles' rally gave Gonzalez (5-2) second life after he allowed two costly home runs. Despite allowing four runs, Gonzalez recorded his fourth start of at least seven innings in eight outings this year. He allowed seven base runners (five hits and two walks) while striking out eight.

Gonzalez allowed a homer to Seth Smith to start the game. Smith also robbed Jones of a homer in the bottom of the first, reaching over the left-field fence to bring a towering fly ball back into the park.

The Orioles rallied for three runs in the fourth to tie the game at 4 — the key hit being Paredes' single with the bases loaded on a roller just past the infield.

The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the inning on a leadoff walk to Travis Snider and back-to-back singles by J.J. Hardy and Alejandro De Aza.

Joseph, the Orioles' No. 9 hitter, then singled to left to score Snider. Two batters later, Paredes took a 2-2 pitch just off the plate the other way past a hole in the Mariners infield to tie the game.

"I thought it was a pretty good pitch," Walker said. "I looked at video, and it looked like it was off the plate pretty good, too. ... .It was just a good piece of hitting."

Joseph, who is 10-for-23 with runners in scoring position this season, gave the Orioles their first lead in the sixth with the second of back-to-back doubles to open the inning.

Two batters later, Paredes hit a two-run blast about 10 rows into the left-field seats on a 3-1 pitch over the outer half from right-hander Danny Farquhar.

"I think it was like a foot off the plate, but it was up," Farquhar said. "And he kind of stands on the plate. I guess that's the middle to him."

Joseph and De Aza combined to go 5-for-7 on the night, providing a boost from the bottom part of the Orioles batting order.

"Anytime you can present some challenges all the way through the order, you're trying to make them work for every out they get," Showalter said. "Any time you can present that kind of challenge throughout the order, it makes pitchers work and pitch counts get up a little."

But the evening belonged to Paredes.

"It's great," Paredes said. "It's [been] an amazing season. The team's rolling now. We lost a couple of games, but the energy gets us some wins. We finish strong."

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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