Boomstick's a scary sight
ARLINGTON, Texas - Nelson Cruz is again swinging his big boomstick in October for the Texas Rangers, who are one win from their second consecutive trip to the World Series.
Only 3 1/2 years ago, Cruz was waived at the end of spring training but went unclaimed and was sent to the minors. It’s been quite a turnaround.
“That period of time in Nelson’s life, he hadn’t arrived yet. You know, we all got to experience things before we finally make our way to where we want to be,’’ manager Ron Washington said yesterday.
Cruz is living up to his boomstick moniker that became common after an MLB 2K10 video game promotion last year, a season after he was Home Run Derby runner-up. Cruz already has an LCS-record five home runs heading into tonight’s Game 6.
“You just continue to say ‘Wow, this guy is really good,’ ’’ ’ said David Murphy, who, as the No. 8 hitter, usually is on deck when Cruz hits.
Cruz won Game 2 with the first game-ending grand slam in postseason history. Cruz hit another 11th-inning drive in Detroit in Game 4, a three-run shot.
Yet Cruz bats seventh in the Texas lineup, behind Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Napoli.
Against the Tigers, Cruz tied Game 2 when he led off the seventh with a solo homer that chased Max Scherzer.
Cruz also chased Justin Verlander in Game 5 when he pulled an 0-and-2 fastball clocked at 100 miles per hour that hit the left-field pole, just like his homer off Scherzer.
“I realize he’s a good hitter and he’s hot. Given that, you can’t fear him. You have to go right after him,’’ Scherzer said yesterday.
Scherzer gets another chance tonight in a rematch of the Game 2 starters. Derek Holland, who didn’t make it out of the third inning Monday, goes for the Rangers.
While the Rangers had an optional light workout late yesterday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark that lasted less than an hour, the Tigers opted for some extra time at home after extending the series with a 7-5 victory Thursday.
After going 1 for 15 with a single in the division series against Tampa Bay, Cruz is 6 for 18 against the Tigers, with a double, five homers, and 11 RBIs, matching the ALCS record and one shy of the tying the mark for any postseason series.
Cruz hit six homers and set a postseason record with 13 extra-base hits last October when the Rangers won their first AL pennant. Of his 11 career postseason homers, seven have come in the seventh inning or later - a mark surpassed only by Bernie Williams, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter.
The Rangers acquired Cruz with Carlos Lee from Milwaukee in a six-player trade highlighted by closer Francisco Cordero July 28, 2006.
By the end of spring training in 2008, the final roster spot came down to Cruz or Jason Botts, both young power hitters out of minor league options. Texas went with Botts, who hit only .158 in 15 games with 18 strikeouts in 38 at-bats and was designated for assignment. Botts never again played in the majors.
Cruz cleared waivers and was sent outright to Oklahoma, where he had an MVP season in the Pacific Coast League. He hit .342 with 37 home runs, 99 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 103 games before rejoining the Rangers the final six weeks of the season - when he hit .330 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 31 games.
Originally signed as a 17-year-old free agent from the Dominican Republic in 1998, Cruz spent three seasons in the Mets organization before getting traded to Oakland and later Milwaukee.
“It’s very gratifying, satisfying, all of the above, simply because we need Nelson. He’s a big part of our team.,’’ Washington said. “Not only on the offensive side, defensive side, status in the clubhouse, energy that he brings, all of that comes into play.’’