HOUSTON -- Finally.
After a frustrating three weeks, Baltimore's struggling lineup broke out in a big way Sunday, as Manny Machado hit his first career grand slam in the O's six-run sixth and David Lough knocked his first homer of the season in the second. The Orioles' 12-hit outburst, even more impressive considering slugger Nelson Cruz's injury-shortened game, led to a joyous Sunday afternoon, as Baltimore turned in a dominant 9-4 series-evening win over the Astros.
And while there was a lot to like on the field, watching Cruz -- the Major League leader in home runs (20) and RBIs (52) -- exit early dampened some of the enthusiasm, as his status for Tuesday remains in limbo.
"Anytime you get hit in the hand, you get concerned," said Cruz, who had his left hand wrapped after in-game X-rays came back negative. "I tried to stay, but I wasn't able to grab the bat. So hopefully [Monday], I'll be good."
Cruz was plunked with a third-inning Scott Feldman fastball and left before the bottom of the frame, with the initial prognosis -- a left hand contusion -- giving the Orioles some room for optimism, considering they have Monday off. But, as manager Buck Showalter cautioned reporters, the O's will wait and see how Cruz's hand responds before determining if he needs further tests.
"There's a long bone down through there," Showalter said. "He tried to grip the bat up the runway and had some point tender pain right on the spot. I was pretty concerned there. A lot of time you get those type of symptoms, you don't like the results. But I'm hoping even though he didn't dodge a bullet, that we did."
The Orioles, bolstered early by Lough's two-run shot, exacted revenge on former teammate Feldman in admirable fashion: the box score. Adam Jones plated a run with a sacrifice fly after Cruz's plunking, and then the O's piled on in the sixth.
"I think really just making pitches," said Feldman of his issues during the outing. "I haven't made as many good pitches when I needed them, especially getting into some big situations like today -- bases loaded, can't make a pitch to get out of it. I think it really just comes down to that."
A trio of sixth-inning singles from Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Jonathan Schoop loaded the bases for Lough, who drove in his third run of the afternoon to double his season RBI total. The much-maligned outfielder turned in his third multihit game and was starting for just the third time since May 18.
"Hopefully I can get it going offensively," said Lough, who moved from left to right field after Cruz exited.
"It was good for the team and for me [to hit the homer]. I've been struggling at the plate, obviously, and when I hit it I knew it had a good chance of getting out of here and putting us up 2-0 and getting us going for our offense today."
After Lough's sixth-inning single, catcher Nick Hundley hit a long sacrifice fly into the right-field corner. Following an intentional walk to Nick Markakis, Machado drilled a 2-2 sinker deep into the left-field seats for his third homer of the season to give the O's an eight-run lead.
"Not a hundred percent, but I feel much [more] comfortable in there," Machado said of regaining his form. "It was overall a good day. The pitching staff threw well. We're finally getting some hits when we need to. Things are coming into place."
Machado, who entered the game with five RBIs on the season, was moved down to seventh in the batting order last week and has started to return to his productive ways. The 21-year-old, who had a pair of infield singles on Saturday, reached base three times, including a third-inning double.
Machado's slam was enough to end Feldman's afternoon, as the righty was charged with a season-high nine earned runs on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings.
"I think we caught Scott Feldman on a little lesser day, but we'll take it," Showalter said. "We strung together some good at-bats. I think the off-day is coming at a right time. It's been a long time. We finally got into June, and if we get through this road trip, at least we'll be playing some games at home now and then."
Given the team's upcoming schedule, Showalter pulled starter Wei-Yin Chen a little early, after the lefty went 5 1/3 innings. Chen allowed one run on four hits and struck out six en route to his team-leading sixth win.
"I felt good out there, and I was kind of hoping I could go deeper in the game," Chen said through his interpreter following the 97-pitch outing.
But with Chen going on regular rest the next time out, Showalter opted to get some of his relievers work. Righty Brad Brach was charged with one run over his 1 2/3-inning outing and Preston Guilmet served up a two-run homer to Matt Dominguez in the eighth to move the Astros within five. But that's as close as they would get, with lefty Brian Matusz cruising through a scoreless ninth to put the finishing touches on the win.
"It's huge," Machado said of the offensive awakening in Sunday's win. "We haven't really put the pieces together. Pitching does well one day. Our hitting will come through, so to have a day like that today when our pitching staff did great. The bullpen came in and shut the door. We came out and had some big hits, took some walks, and got some big hits when there were runners on."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.