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Slumping Cruz out of lineup for second time in '14

Slumping Cruz out of lineup for second time in '14

BALTIMORE -- The very scenario that Buck Showalter outlined on Sunday to illustrate Nelson Cruz's struggles reared its head during the eighth inning of the Orioles' 6-3 loss to the Mariners the night before.

After working the count to 2-2, Cruz swung at a pitch in the dirt for his third strikeout of the night. It was one of those sequences that have become familiar to the outfielder in recent weeks. He did everything right to get himself on base, except finish the at-bat.

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"They're not getting him out," Showalter said. "He's getting himself out, mostly."

Cruz had just one hit in his last 28 at-bats entering Sunday. Since the All-Star break, he was 6-for-57 with 14 strikeouts and only one home run. Only one American League player with at least 20 at-bats since the All-Star break had a worse batting average than Cruz's .105.

The All-Star was out of the starting lineup for just the second time this season on Sunday afternoon. Delmon Young, who was serving as the designated hitter and batting cleanup for the second time this season, made his fourth consecutive start. David Lough made his second start of the homestand, batting seventh and playing left field.

"Looking for a little -- I won't say energy, because it means that other people don't have it," said Showalter, whose team has the AL's worst batting average and on-base percentage since the All-Star break. "You're always looking for something that kind of engages things."

Cruz's slump, though, has been the most noticeable. After emerging as a first-half AL Most Valuable Player candidate with a .287 average and 28 home runs, his struggles have coincided with the offense's worst stretch of the season.

The 34-year-old was on pace for 49 home runs at the break, a pace that no one expected Cruz to sustain for a full 162 games -- just like this slump likely won't last the rest of this season.

"You just try to shorten the bad times and stretch out the good ones," Showalter said. "There's nobody that stayed hot from Game 1 to Game 162. It's just who can shorten up the bad periods."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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