Cruz homers, Showalter talks about trades & team chemistry (O's lead 4-2)

Nelson Cruz wasn't satisfied with a career-high 34 home runs this season.

cruz-swing-white-sidebar.jpgNo. 35 came today with one out in the bottom of the third. He crushed a slider from Ricky Nolasco to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen has thrown 23 of his 30 pitches for strikes in three innings today against the Twins.

Chen has allowed two hits, including Eduardo Nunez's double leading off the third, but no runs. He struck out the first two batters he faced.

For the second time in this series, the Twins have hit two Orioles batters in the same inning. Trevor May drilled Adam Jones and Cruz back-to-back Friday night, and Nolasco nailed Jones and Chris Davis today in the first inning.

Jones has been hit 12 times, tied for second-most in the American League. Seattle's Mike Zunino is first with 14.

Not an award you necessarily want to win. And I don't think you get a pie in the face after the game.

Maybe a piece of bruised fruit.

Anyway...

Jones has 18 walks and 12 HBPs this season.

The Orioles loaded the bases in the first, which included Nick Markakis' leadoff single, but J.J. Hardy struck out to end the threat.

Markakis reached on an infield hit in the second, leaving him 46 hits behind Boog Powell for fifth place on the Orioles' all-time list. I'm still counting.

Markakis was 1-for-14 against Nolasco before today.

According to Elias, infielder Kelly Johnson will become the first player to play for all five current American League East teams when he makes his major league debut. Johnson will report to Camden Yards on Monday.

Outfielder Alejandro De Aza is expected here later today.

The added depth, further inflated with roster expansion that begins on Monday, will allow manager Buck Showalter to rest some of his regulars.

"There was a game a couple nights ago where I really wanted to get Nick and Jonesy off the field and couldn't do it," he said. "It's going to allow us going forward to have some veteran guys, what-ifs, and also contribute. They're both eligible from the picking pool if we're fortunate enough to go forward."

Forward, as in, the playoffs. That word.

"It doesn't preclude us from doing anything in September, either," Showalter said, "but there's a different sense of urgency leading up to midnight tonight."

Johnson includes first base on his resume, which comes in handy with Steve Pearce sidelined by a strained right abdominal muscle.

"We feel more comfortable about making sure we get that resolved," Showalter said.

"It's worked out OK, but it's obviously a very right-handed ladened lineup. I'd rather have a good right-handed hitter against a right-handed pitcher than a left-hander who... just because he's left-handed, there are some reverse-split guys and neutral-split guys."

Showalter said he spoke to Delmon Young and a couple of other players to make sure they understood the reasoning behind the trades and how they could be impacted, if at all.

"It's unknown that drives players crazy and you want them to understand thiings," Showalter said. "I had a real good idea what they were going to say. They're usually pretty short conversations, but you have them nonetheless.

"Adam said something to me last night before the trade was announced. They've got more contacts than maybe some of us here. They're perceived as the team and front office and ownership doing what it takes to make some additions. And I think they trust the vetting of people before we bring them in here, that they will fit in other than just a player. There's a lot of mutual trust involved.

"If you have one guy coming into the clubhouse this time of year and it affects something that much, you're not going to be playing in the postseason anyway. But we feel very confident about the environment we bring our guys into. Our guys are very welcoming. There's no rookie hazing, so to speak here. You're wearing black and orange. We're going to make your path easier if you let us. And that hasn't been an issue. If it is, our guys take care of it very quickly."

Update: Ryan Flaherty, making his first start since Aug. 16, hit a three-run homer in the third to increase the lead to 4-0.

Davis doubled and Hardy walked to set the table for Flaherty, who hit the 175th home run of the season for the Orioles.

Update II: Trevor Plouffe hit a two-run homer off Chen in the fourth to reduce the Orioles' lead to 4-2.

Markakis singled in the bottom half of the inning and is 3-for-3 today, leaving him 45 hits behind Powell for fifth on the Orioles' all-time list.

Am I the only one counting here?

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