ARLINGTON, Texas -- One teammate kidded that Nelson Cruz should split credit with the jet stream for the home run that put the Rangers on the scoreboard for the first time in 2010.
“Whatever works,” Cruz said with a grin after the 5-4 win over the Blue Jays. “I just tried to go the other way. I put good wood on it. Even though I was in front of it, I squared it up.”
It looked like a relatively mundane inside-out swing on a 2-2 changeup in the seventh inning. But the ball kept going, going, going until it landed in the Texas bullpen, 398 feet away from home plate.
Shaun Marcum’s no-hit bid had ended moments before Cruz dug into the batter’s box. Cruz’s three-run shot ruined Marcum’s chance for a win.
Cruz said he knew he got enough of the changeup to at least get the ball to the wall. Manager Ron Washington, well aware of the way the jet stream works at the Ballpark in Arlington, knew it was gone right away.
It’s not like Marcum gave Cruz much of a pitch to hit. He put a 2-2 changeup low and outside. Cruz was looking for a changeup, which Marcum used to confuse the Rangers throughout the first six innings, but he still got out in front of the ball a bit.
As much as the jet stream helped, the homer was a pretty impressive display of the 6-2, 240-pound Cruz’s strength.
“There’s not really anywhere you can throw it that he’s not going to be able to hit it,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “The home run was not even hittable, but he hit it. I think everyone realizes what kind of presence he is and how powerful he is.”
And Cruz did more damage in the Rangers’ rally for the victory in the bottom of the ninth. He tied the game again with an RBI double, which was a bit of a blooper down the right-field line. He admitted he didn’t get the good part of the bat on that ball, but he executed his plan to put it in the outfield.
Cruz finished the day 2-for-4 with four RBI. Pudge Rodriguez is the only Ranger with more RBI on Opening Day, driving in five in 2000.
Cruz was considered Quadruple-A player a couple of years ago. Then he shined in a September 2008 callup and followed that up by belting 33 homers for the Rangers last season. Suddenly, it appears that his career is taking off like a fly ball in the jet stream.