A near non-factor in the Texas Rangers’ American League Division Series victory against Tampa, the 31-year-old outfielder finally woke up with a solo home run in Friday’s ALCS Game 1 victory over Detroit.
On Tuesday night, Cruz did himself one (actually four) better.
With the score knotted at 3 in the bottom of the 11th, Cruz blasted a game-winning grand slam — the first in postseason history — to give the surging Rangers a 7-3 victory and a commanding 2-0 series lead.
It was Cruz’s solo homer in the bottom of the seventh that tied the game to force extra innings.
“It’s an instant classic, no doubt about it,” Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “When Nellie gets going like he’s going, he’s tough to beat.”
Nellie — who was a miserable 1 for 15 through his first four playoff games — is officially “going” (cue the “Cruz control” headlines), which is a scary proposition for Detroit’s pitching staff as it looks to dig its way out of an 0-2 with serious injury issues plaguing its lineup.
If you’d never heard of Cruz before the 2010 playoffs, he made quite an impression in his postseason debut, slugging six home runs and knocking in 11 runs while hitting .317 during the Rangers’ run to the World Series.
It appears he’s rediscovered that form, and at the perfect time for the Rangers, who had squeaked out one-run victories in their previous three contests.