BALTIMORE — Nelson Cruz returned with a bang Tuesday night to Camden Yards. A three-run bang, in fact.
It turned into a nice little footnote, and nothing more, after the Baltimore Orioles mugged Taijuan Walker and Danny Farquhar in a 9-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Cruz’s homer came in the third inning against Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez and staked Walker to a 4-1 lead. This story was writing itself, but then…
Walker never made it through a three-run fourth inning.
“It just wasn’t a good outing,” he said. “I wasn’t getting ahead. A couple of walks hurt me because I wasn’t locating.”
On came Farquhar, who pitched well initially before coughing up the tie in a three-run sixth inning.
The key figure in both three-run bursts was Jimmy Paredes, who extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a two-run, two-out single (VIDEO LINK) against Walker in the fourth before hitting a two-run homer (VIDEO LINK) against Farquhar in the sixth.
“I think it was like a foot off the plate,” Farquhar said, “but it was up. And he kind of stands on the plate. I guess that’s the middle to him.”
Cruz had a forgettable moment, too, when he failed to scoop a single to right in the seventh inning. The resulting two-base error permitted an unearned run to score against Mark Lowe.
“I have no excuse,” Cruz said. “That’s a routine play.”
The Orioles scored their final run courtesy of a wild pitch and a passed ball in the eighth inning.
It was, in sum, the sort of wasted opportunity that continues to plague the Mariners, who slipped to 17-21 at the start of a nine-game trip through Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay.
“(Walker’s) command wasn’t there,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and he struggled with his velocity as well. It certainly was not one of his best outings. It’s unfortunate because we scored some runs.”
Gonzalez (5-2), in contrast, recovered nicely after Cruz’s homer and allowed nothing more while pitching through the seventh inning.
“He put some zeroes up there after we got back in it,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s pretty typical Miguel.”
Cruz said much the same thing in regard to his former teammate.
“I don’t think he changed that much," Cruz said. “He was aggressive with his fastball. We got him in that one inning, but he was aggressive the whole game in throwing his fastball for strikes.”
Brian Matusz and Darren O’Day closed out Gonzalez’s victory.
For Walker, this was step backward in a roller-coaster season that had been moving in the right direction. He gave up four runs in 3 2/3 innings on seven hits and four walks.
“When you talk about growing pains, a young pitcher getting better,” McClendon said, “there’s going to be some failure. That’s the only way you’re going to gain that knowledge and get better.
“With a young pitcher like Taijuan, out of five starts, there are going to be two bad ones. And one is just going to be OK. And two are going to dazzle you. We have to show patience.”
Walker’s ERA zoomed to a Boeing-esque 7.47, although he avoided the loss. That went to Farquhar, who gave up a pair of line-hugging doubles in the sixth inning before Paredes sent a 388-foot drive over the left-field wall.
Paredes’ four RBIs are a career high.
Let’s start the reset with the Cruz highlight.
It was 1-1 when Chris Taylor led off the third inning by working an 11-pitch walk. Gonzalez retired the next two hitters before Robinson Cano flicked a single over short.
Next came Cruz, who resurrected his career last year by hitting 40 homers in his only season as an Oriole before signing as a free agent with the Mariners.
He flicked a 418-foot drive to center that carried into the bullpens for a three-run homer. What initially looked like a routine fly to center kept soaring and ended up in the bullpen for his 16th homer of the year.
Not much went right thereafter.
Walker found trouble in the fourth after a leadoff walk to Travis Snider when singles by J.J. Hardy and Alejandro De Aza loaded the bases with no outs.
Caleb Joseph then yanked an 0-2 fastball into left for an RBI single.
Walker had a chance to limit the damage to one run when Manny Machado grounded into a pitcher-catcher-first double play, but Paredes’ grounder found a hole through the left side for a two-run single.
It was 4-4.
When Adam Jones followed with a single off Taylor’s glove at short, the Mariners went to their bullpen for Farquhar, who ended the inning by striking out Chris Davis.
Farquhar (0-2) breezed through the fifth before De Aza and Joseph opened the sixth inning by painting the left- and right-field lines for doubles. Paredes made it 7-4 by slicing a one-out homer over the left-field wall.