Whether it was out of anger or simply a desire to please his new employers, Todd Cruz put on a hitting show tonight as the Baltimore Orioles shook up Detroit, 9-5, at Tiger Stadium.
On his first evening in an Orioles uniform, Cruz--almost six days after being released by Seattle--ruined the Tigers' night and Manager Sparky Anderson's strategies with a three-run home run and three-run double that gave Storm Davis a victory in the opening of this four-game holiday series.
Cruz, who grew up several blocks from Tiger Stadium, started at third base as Manager Joe Altobelli wasted no time in getting a look at his new man. Cruz, who played flawlessly at third, did not look like the .190 hitter he was coming into tonight's game.
His six RBI also came against a team whose manager earlier in the week had balked at picking up Cruz.
The victory moved Baltimore into sole ownership of second place in the American League East, a game behind Toronto, which lost to Seattle. It also pushed Davis' record to 6-3 and seemed to revive the career of a 27-year-old infielder who earlier in the week wondered if he had been permanently dropped from the majors.
Cruz hit a three-run double in the third inning off Tigers starter Milt Wilcox, then hit a three-run homer into the left field seats in the fifth as Baltimore built an 8-3 lead.
In each situation, Cruz ruined the strategy of Anderson, who had order Jim Dwyer walked intentionally so that Wilcox might get at Cruz. "What would you do if you were the manager?" asked Cruz. "I'm a guy hitting .190 who hasn't batted for a week. Any manager would have made the same decision."
Said Anderson, rhetorically: "Who would you want to pitch to in that situation? It depends on who's following whom. Cruz hadn't been playing, and when you've got two outs, it comes down to a simple matter of deciding who you feel you can pitch to."
Cruz steadfastly denied any vendetta against Anderson, but might have been excused for some animosity. Earlier in the week, the Tiger manager had balked at suggestions that Detroit might be shopping for Cruz.
"Nope, I don't want him," said Anderson. "Something's wrong, or else Seattle wouldn't have released him."
Cruz had been made aware of the remarks by family members in Detroit, but after tonight's hitting spree, he dismissed them. "No, I don't go for revenge in this game," he said. "I go out and play to win, and give my best. There's no room for revenge."
Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. also homered for the Orioles, theirs coming back to back in the first as Baltimore tore into a 2-0 lead.
Davis, however, did not find the Tigers as obliging as they were Sunday when he no-hit them through the first eight innings at Memorial Stadium. Glen Wilson's three-run homer in the bottom of the first put Detroit on top, 3-2, a lead that lasted only until Cruz ignited his holiday fireworks.
Tonight's performance also reinforced Altobelli's thoughts that Cruz, if he plays regularly, will be at third with Ripken remaining at short.
"Who knows?" Altobelli asked, shrugging. "He may fall in love with the position; the position may fall in love with him."
After Baltimore took its five-run lead, the Tigers never seriously bothered Davis except for solo home runs by Lance Parrish and Johnny Grubb. Davis finished with a seven-hitter, striking out eight.
"Give credit to Todd and the rest of the guys who did the hitting tonight," said Davis. "Tonight was one of those nights when I knew I couldn't relax . . . "
He also appreciated the importance of winning the opening game in this four-game series.
"It takes some of the pressure off us," he acknowledged. "We were in the other boat a week ago when they won the opener, and we knew we didn't want that again."