Orioles-Blue Jays Preview
Nelson Cruz is on a tear, and that’s especially true at Rogers Centre.
He’ll look for another big effort at the plate Thursday night against the Toronto Blue Jays and try to help the Baltimore Orioles end a seven-game trip above .500.
Cruz is batting .400 with four homers and 14 RBIs over the past six games, getting at least one hit and one RBI in each. He’s trying to become the first Orioles player to drive in a run in seven straight games since Mark Reynolds did it from Sept. 15-22, 2012.
He’s among baseball’s leaders with six homers and 21 RBIs over his first 19 games with Baltimore (10-10) after signing a one-year, free-agent contract in February.
"They welcomed me really well and embraced me, which makes it so much easier for me," Cruz told the team’s official website. "I feel like I’ve been here forever."
Cruz also seems rather comfortable in Toronto (11-10), where he’s 6 for 13 with four homers and 10 RBIs in three games. He’s driven in eight runs while homering on three of his four hits in the series, connecting for two with five RBIs in Wednesday’s 10-8 win.
"We all know what he’s capable of," manager Buck Showalter said.
The Blue Jays surely share that sentiment since Cruz’s success against them isn’t limited to the road. He’s accumulated 35 RBIs over his past 23 overall meetings, including a career-best eight in two different matchups while with Texas.
Another strong offensive display may be needed since the Orioles are slated to turn to Bud Norris (0-2, 4.42), who is seeking his first win since Sept. 2 at Cleveland.
The right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.28 ERA in six games – five starts – since, losing all three on the road behind a 6.59 ERA while giving up a .304 average to opposing batters.
Norris’ struggles as the visitor continued Saturday when he gave up four runs with seven strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-2 defeat at Boston. That came a week after he tossed seven scoreless innings in a 2-1 win in 12 at home against the Blue Jays.
This time, Norris will have to face Jose Reyes, who is 6 for 16 (.375) against him. The star shortstop has five hits in four games since returning from a left hamstring injury suffered on opening day. He’s also coming off his first homer of the season, a two-run shot that powered the Jays’ six-run second inning Wednesday.
Reyes owns a .342 career average against the Orioles, while Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera are also hitting Baltimore hard.
Lawrie is 6 for 13 with seven RBIs in three games against the AL East rival. The third baseman has homered once in each contest after launching a three-run shot among his three hits Wednesday.
Cabrera, meanwhile, is 8 for 22 with three doubles, one homer and three RBIs over the previous four matchups. He’s also 3 for 7 with a double off Norris, though Lawrie is 0 for 4 with two walks.
Expected to get the ball for Toronto is Drew Hutchison (1-1, 3.60), who is 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA in three starts against the Orioles and has also held Cruz to one hit in six career at-bats.
The right-hander has tossed 13 consecutive scoreless innings against Baltimore over the past two meetings, including six while yielding four hits in the April 12 loss opposite Norris.
Hutchison followed that up Friday by throwing five scoreless innings before giving up a two-run homer and leaving with one out in the sixth while not getting a decision in a 3-2 victory at Cleveland.