BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles’ struggling offense could use a big bat in the middle of the order, and one is about to make its return to Camden Yards.
Nelson Cruz, however, will be wearing a Seattle uniform Tuesday night when he takes the field at his 2014 home, and manager Lloyd McClendon probably would rather not think of where the Mariners’ offense would be without him.READ MORE: Firefighters Battle Two-Alarm Fire Amid Thunderstorm In Baltimore's Riverside Neighborhood
Cruz, who is among the best in the majors with 15 home runs, a .340 average and 1.089 OPS, is finding Seattle to be even more welcoming than his one season on the East Coast.
The slugger ended last season with a nine-game hitting streak at Camden, but he did most of his damage in his 40-home run, 108-RBI season on the road. In Baltimore, he hit .252 with 15 of those homers and 40 RBIs and a .783 OPS as opposed to a .930 mark on the road.
He’ll face Miguel Gonzalez, who has had some impressive starts recently but has been unable to string them together. After allowing five runs in four innings of a 5-4 loss to the New York Yankees on May 8, Gonzalez (4-2, 2.93 ERA) bounced back in Wednesday’s 6-1 win over Toronto. The right-hander went 7 2-3 innings without allowing an earned run for the second time in three starts, lowering his opponent batting average to .206.
“He doesn’t have just one way to get you out,” manager Buck Showalter said. “If one thing doesn’t work, he’s going to go to something else. He’s going to go into the cupboard for something more.”
Gonzalez was 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against Seattle last season. Dustin Ackley is 4 for 6 with a home run against him, but Gonzalez has held Robinson Cano to 3 for 24. Cruz is 2 for 8.
The Mariners are coming off a four-game split with Boston to end a 6-3 homestand, and Cruz might finally be getting some help from another player in the lineup. Sunday’s 5-0 victory included Brad Miller’s third home run in two games and fourth in five. After hitting .225 through 29 games, he’s batting .429 on a six-game hitting streak to boost his average to .264, joining Cruz as the only Seattle players hitting over .258.READ MORE: Fourth Of July Fireworks Return To Baltimore's Inner Harbor
“The guys still haven’t hit their stride,” McClendon told MLB’s official website. “We have veteran cubs who have proven they can hit, and when that happens, people are going to be in trouble.”
Right now, the pitching staff is causing opponents problems. Sunday’s was the latest strong effort, giving Seattle (17-20) a 2.17 ERA in the nine-game span.
That includes two starts from Taijuan Walker, but the 22-year-old still needs to prove he’s capable of contributing on that level. Walker (1-4, 7.22) allowed two runs and four hits in six innings of Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to San Diego. The right-hander hasn’t been as hittable in his last two starts with a .225 OBA after posting a .343 mark through his first five starts.
“I thought tonight was very encouraging,” McClendon said. “He competed well against a tough ballclub. I was very pleased.”
The Orioles (16-19) aren’t providing any reason to think they’re capable of overcoming Seattle’s pitching, batting .218 and scoring 2.93 runs per game in 15 games this month. They salvaged one of three over the weekend at home against the Los Angeles Angels, winning 3-0 on Sunday, though they haven’t won consecutive games over a 4-8 span.
Adam Jones was 2 for 4 with two RBIs, but the center fielder was 0 for 12 last season in three home games against his former team.MORE NEWS: Maryland Comptroller Franchot Tests Positive For COVID-19
Baltimore won five of seven in last season’s series and is 9-3 against Seattle at Camden over the past four.