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Big League Stew

The Grand Slam: Nelson Cruz's grand slam leads to dramatic Orioles win

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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A lot was on the line when Nelson Cruz stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning. Up until that point, the Baltimore Orioles offense had been shutout by Chicago White Sox starter Hector Noesi, so this marked their best and perhaps final opportunity to climb back into a game which they conveniently trailed by four runs.

Also, earlier in the game, Chicago's rookie Jose Abreu had pulled even with Cruz for the MLB lead in home runs with his 23rd in just 65 games. Obviously, the former was of utmost importance to Cruz, but he managed to change both circumstances with one swing. Cruz deposited a Javy Guerra pitch just over the fence in right center field for a game-tying grand slam. In the process, the MLB home run lead was his again as well as he became the first player to No. 24.

The game eventually moved to extra innings, where rain halted play temporarily in the 10th inning. In the 11th, Cruz had a chance to deliver the game-winning hit as well, but popped up against Jake Petricka to end the rally. It wasn't until the 12th that they finally found closure in the form of a 5-4 victory.

After Nick Hundley walked leading off the inning, David Lough came into pinch-run. Nick Markakis followed with a single to right center that nearly scored Lough from first base. However, he stumbled coming around third and was forced to hold. That only delayed the inevitable. On the very next pitch, Daniel Webb uncorked a wild one allowing Lough to stroll home with the winner.

Thanks to Toronto's 5-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, the Orioles are now only a game and half in the AL East.

DAVID PRICE RACKS UP DOUBLE DIGIT STRIKEOUTS AGAIN: The Tampa Bay Rays are reportedly prepared to deal ace David Price the moment a desirable trade offer comes along. At this point, nothing is imminent, but given how quickly things change it's entirely possible Wednesday was Price's last start in a Rays uniform at Tropicana Field.

If so, he went out with a bang, striking out 11 Pittsburgh Pirates to become the first pitcher in 10 years to fan at least 10 in five straight starts. Price gave up five hits, walked one and took a shut ut to the ninth. Andrew McCutchen spoiled it with a solo home run, but the Rays still held on comfortably to a 5-1 victory.

It was a dominant performance that surely impressed the scouts in attendance. That said, perhaps interested suitors would be most thrilled to hear the confidence Price exuded in the clubhouse after the game.

''I've never been as good as I am right now, period. Not in 2012 (when he won the Cy Young Award), not in college, not in high school,'' declared Price, who is rumored to be on the trading block from the last-place Rays. ''This is the best pitcher I've ever been. I feel in complete control on the mound at all times,

Pretty scary coming from a guy who already has one Cy Young Award to his credit. Teams will pay a hefty price to acquire his services, but he has difference maker written all over him.

Oh, and speaking of Price, he had another reason to celebrate on Wednesday night after his Vanderbilt Commandores won the College World Series.

DUELING DEBUTS IN DENVER: A rash of injuries to starting pitchers left the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies digging deep for arms on Wednesday. Both sides came up with rookie left-handers, and both were charged the task of making their big league debuts in the most hitter-friendly ballpark possible, Coors Field. 

For St. Louis, it was actually a former Colorado high school star on the hill. 22-year-old Marco Gonzales from nearby Fort Collins had already pitched in Coors Field one time before during a high school all-star game. He came in looking most comfortable, as he breezed through the first three innings without allowing a hit. The fourth was a different story, as Colorado roughed him for five runs en route to an early exit.

For Colorado, 28-year-old Yohan Flande took the ball. He fared just a little better than Gonzales, allowing four runs over five innings. Unfortunately, he didn't factor in the decision as the Rockies bullpen allowed five unanswered runs in the late innings which gave St. Louis a 9-6 victory.

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OPPOSITES ATTRACT: The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers continued moving in opposite directions on Wednesday. With their 8-6 victory, the Tigers extended their winning streak to six games. On the other side, the Rangers have lost seven straight and currently sit a season-high 12 and a half games behind the Oakland A's in the AL West.

It was all about the Martinez's again for Detroit. Both Victor and J.D. (not related) connected for home runs. For Victor, it was already his 20th of the season, which kept him on pace to shatter his career-high of 25 established in 2007. J.D. clobbered his ninth for Detroit and extended MLB best hitting streak to 14 games. He also had 10 home runs at Triple-A before getting called up on April 21.

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