Cruz said he was sitting in the dugout in the fifth when he started to feel his neck cramp up. He added that neck spasms are something he has experienced before and that they're somewhat common.
"It's just kind of stiff, the neck," Cruz said. "Anybody can get that. I was sitting there and I felt the cramps."
Cruz's 406-foot shot in to center in the first moved him one home run ahead of the Angels' Mike Trout for the Major League lead. The last Mariners hitter to finish a season with the most homers in the American League was Ken Griffey Jr., who hit 48 1999, though he was third in the Majors behing Mark McGwire (65) and Sammy Sosa (63). No Mariners hitter has finished the season leading the Majors.
Cruz struck out in his second at-bat and flew out to left in the fifth to go 1-for-3 before exiting the game. Ketel Marte entered the game at shortstop and hit in Cruz's No. 3 spot, moving Brad Miller to left field and Seth Smith to right. Miller returned to short after Gutierrez pinch-hit for Marte in the eighth and stayed in the game in left field to start the ninth.
As Cruz has gone this season, so have the Mariners. They are 21-9 in games in which Cruz has homered.
In many cases, those wins have been because of Cruz. His shot Tuesday night only drew the Mariners within a run of the Orioles, and he didn't get a chance at the Orioles' bullpen late, but in addition to leading the Majors in home runs, he is tied for the AL lead with 12 game-winning RBIs.
On Tuesday, his home run led to a two-out, four-run rally in the first. He is hitting .411 with 13 home runs and 17 RBIs over his last 21 games, and his teammates, who have won six of their last nine, have followed with improved production of their own.
"I think when you have Nelson Cruz sitting there in the middle of your lineup, you feel pretty confident coming into every game," said Austin Jackson, who had the game-winning hit. "We're rallying behind him right now and trying to feed off that energy."
Andrew Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.