ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Nelson Cruz took a slow trot around the bases after hitting a towering three-run homer in his return to Texas.
The Baltimore Orioles slugger wasn’t really savoring the moment. He was cramping so bad that he almost didn’t even take that final at-bat in the eighth inning.
Cruz hit the first pitch thrown by Shawn Tolleson, the fourth Rangers reliever, an estimated 404 feet deep into the left field seats to cap a tiebreaking six-run outburst as the Orioles won 8-3 on Tuesday night.
“We were debating, he and I were,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He go about halfway down the first, and that was a cramp trot.”
Likening his first game against the Rangers to one of his first days in the big leagues, when everything went so fast, Cruz said he just tried to stay in the moment and stay focused.
“Kind of weird. Going from the other side of the plate is totally different than coming around like I used to,” Cruz said. “It was overall a good day.”
Cruz was the 2011 AL championship series MVP on the way to the Rangers’ second consecutive World Series. When introduced before drawing a walk in the first, Texas fans responded with an extended ovation. While there were some boos, those seemed to be outnumbered by fans who called “Cruuuuuzz!” like they used to do when the left fielder was on their side the previous eight seasons.
Heading into free agency last year, Cruz missed the final 50 regular-season games for the Rangers for violating baseball’s drug agreement.
Cruz turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer in November from the Rangers, who likely would have used him primarily as a designated hitter if he had accepted. He went through the entire offseason before signing an $8 million, one-year deal with the Orioles early in spring training.
“I haven’t seen him in a while and I got to see him and talk to him, playing around a little bit. It was a great feeling. I didn’t like anytime he popped one,” Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “I’ve seen too many when he was on this side, but he’s a talented guy. Whenever he’s on, he can carry a team.”
Through 55 games with the Orioles, Cruz is hitting .313 and leads the majors with 21 homers and 55 RBIs.
Adam Jones matched a career high with four hits, including a homer off the right-field pole leading off the Baltimore fourth. Rookie catcher Caleb Joseph had a tiebreaking RBI double in the eighth.
Brian Matusz (2-1) went 1 2-3 innings in relief of Ubaldo Jimenez, who held Texas to one run and four hits while striking out five over 5 2/3 innings.
Alexi Ogando (2-3), the second Texas reliever, got a popup to start the eighth before allowing three straight Orioles to reach. He was gone after the double by Joseph, whose two hits matched his total in his first 11 games.
The Rangers, coming off a 7-4 record in their longest road trip this season, got two inning-starting homers: Adrian Beltre in the fourth, and Robinson Chrinos in the seventh.
Joe Saunders, the winning pitcher for Baltimore in the 2012 AL wild card game at Texas, allowed two runs and 10 hits over six-plus innings in his first home start for the Rangers. The left-hander was signed during spring training and he made the season-opening rotation before missing more than seven weeks with a stress fracture in his left ankle after being struck by a liner in his first start.
Notes: Three-time AL All-Star first baseman Jim Gentile, who played in the majors from 1957-66, attended the game on his 80th birthday. With Baltimore in 1961, he finished third in the AL MVP voting behind Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. … Orioles closer Tommy Hunter, on the DL since May 22 with a left groin strain, was encouraged with how he felt after a bullpen session before the game. He will do some fielding drills Wednesday, and could go out on a rehab assignment as early as Thursday.
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