“I was trying to not hit a groundball to shortstop,” Cruz said laughing. “I think I did that enough tonight. Was trying to get something I could drive.”
He sure did that. After grounding into double plays in the fourth and seventh innings, Cruz hit his eighth career grand slam to tie this game at 4-4 in the eighth. The Orioles beat Chicago 5-4 in 12 innings.
“It feels good,” Cruz said. “I had a chance to do some damage couple innings before and grounded into a double play twice. Felt good to get the homer to tie the game. I squared it up good, but I didn’t see it when it went up high, so I wasn’t sure if it would go out.
“You always want to be there (batting in key spots). That’s what it is all about. Tough situations to get the lead or tie the game. I think it was a great team effort. The bullpen threw the ball amazing and Ubaldo (Jimenez), it looks like he is in a groove now.
“We battled. We showed we can comeback and tie and win the game. Showed a lot of heart, the whole group of guys.”
David Lough scored the winning run from third base on a wild pitch, but he was more excited to talk about Cruz and his slam.
“That was a big-time clutch hit there,” Lough said. “Big as it gets right there. That is who we want at the plate. You see the numbers he has put up. He’s a special player.
“It’s big. That is our second walk-off win against these guys. They’re a good team and give credit to their staff for holding us. Good to get these wins and keep rolling with it.”
Tommy Hunter struck out Paul Konerko with two on and two outs in the top of the 12th as the O’s bullpen tonight pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
“Yeah, it was a fun game,” he said. “Series victory and we are going to enjoy that off-day. Pretty resilient group. Our hitters never gave in and pitching gave us a chance. Bullpen came through huge. Big outs from everybody.”
What was Hunter trying to do against Konerko?
“I was trying to strike him out,” he said, laughing. “It’s crazy when things work out the way you want them to.”
The Orioles are now 41-36 and are 6-3 in extra-inning games. The O’s now have won three straight series.
Finally, the happiest Oriole in the clubhouse was probably the guy sitting in the corner wearing a Vanderbilt hat. That was Ryan Flaherty, a proud alum after his school won the College World Series tonight.
“I’m taking a lot of grief from the guys in here but I’ll have bragging rights for a while. The whole year. Proud of how far that program has come. When Tim Corbin took over it was the doormat of the SEC and he turned it into a national powerhouse,” he said.
Flaherty can share bragging rights with two O’s minor leaguers because Mike Yastrzemski and Jason Esposito played at Vanderbilt, as well.