Cruz has also hit a lot of big homers in important situations. He hit the game-winning homer against Boston on Opening Day. He’s hit two homers in a game twice in games against Toronto and Milwaukee.
But on Wednesday night, Cruz may have hit one of his biggest home runs so far. After the Orioles couldn’t score for seven innings and found themselves in a 4-0 hole, Cruz changed the game with one swing.
Baltimore’s designated hitter lifted a shot the opposite way to right and it just barely went over the wall for a game-tying grand slam.
“I squared up good,” Cruz said. “It went up pretty high, so I wasn’t sure it was going to go.”
But it did, and the Orioles went on to win 5-4 in 12 innings. And they never would have gotten to that point had Cruz not blasted his 24th home run of the season.
Cruz hadn’t had the best night up to that point. He grounded into two double plays. But those were quickly forgotten.
Despite being down four runs with the bases loaded late, Cruz said he wasn’t trying to hit a home run. He just didn’t want to do what he did in his previous at-bats.
“I was trying to not hit a ground ball to shortstop. I think I hit enough of them tonight,” Cruz said. “You always want to be there. It’s what it’s all about. Tough situations to get the lead or tie the game.”
Cruz went 14 straight games without a home run earlier in the month, but has now hit three in the last seven. And Wednesday’s blast also impressed his teammates, just as his homers have done all season.
“That was a big-time clutch hit there,” Baltimore outfielder David Lough said. “Big as it gets right there. That is who we want at the plate. You see the numbers he has put up. He’s a special player.”
Cruz’s standout first half has also been garnering national attention. He leads the All-Star voting for American League designated hitters with 2.4 million votes. Boston’s David Ortiz is second with 1.6 million.
Not only has Cruz been heating back up as of late, but so have the Orioles. Baltimore has won three straight series, taking two of three from the Rays, Yankees, and White Sox.
The two wins in the most recent series, against Chicago, looked as if the Orioles could have lost. On both Monday and Wednesday, they struggled to get hits with runners in scoring position for most of the game.
But a Chris Davis pinch-hit, walk-off homer lifted Baltimore on Monday, followed by Cruz’s heroics extending the game on Wednesday.
Now, the Orioles have four games in three days against division rival Tampa Bay, followed by four games against Texas and a road trip to Boston.
Cruz said he feels the Chicago series proved the Orioles’ resiliency and ability to win close games, which likely will be a big factor in how far Baltimore gets this season.
“I think in the last three games, we showed that no matter what the score, we can be able to tie the game and win the game,” Cruz said. “I think we showed a lot of heart from the whole group of guys we have here.”