Cruz hits MLB-leading 28th home run

Cruz hits MLB-leading 28th home run

WASHINGTON -- With a two-run shot in the fourth inning of the Orioles' 8-2, 11-inning win against the Nationals on Monday, O's All-Star outfielder Nelson Cruz took the Major League lead with 28 home runs.

This one was as hard as any he has hit this season -- a laser the other way that flew over the wall in right-center field. That was the product of one of the few changes he made after last season.

"I changed a little bit my approach thinking-wise to drive the ball the other way better," Cruz said.

Cruz's milestone occurred just two days after Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey alluded to Cruz's 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal following a 5-for-5 day and one day after the outfielder was voted into the All-Star Game.

Cruz already has more home run than the 27 he hit during his suspension-shortened 2013 season, and he did it in fewer at-bats.

The American League MVP contender needs just five home runs to tie the career-high 33 he hit in 2009. He also leads the Majors with 73 RBIs and 201 total bases.

"Whatever I went through last year helps," Cruz said. "It helps to be more focused, realize what's important to me and my family and I think the overall experience."

Cruz's home run places him ahead of Jose Abreu (27) and Edwin Encarnacion (26) in the Major League home run race. Both have spent time on the disabled list this season. Encarnacion was placed on the 15-day DL on Monday with a right quad strain.

"It's something I cannot control," Cruz said, "so I just come here and do my business. Whatever's going on is beside that."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.