Cruz, still being cautious in his return from a hamstring strain, was on first base when Gentry skied a sinking fly ball to left-center field. He had to hold up as Seattle Mariners left fielder Mike Carp and center fielder Trayvon Robinson converged on it and both dove to snare it. They missed and the ball bounced to the wall.
That's when Gentry thought he had a chance at going all the way.
"It was kind of depending on Nellie," Gentry said. "I stopped coming around first because I wasn't sure if he was going to make it around second. Once I hit second base I knew that they were going to send him so I tried to kick it into gear right there."
Gentry had to stop at first because Cruz had to make sure the ball wasn't caught, and he still wasn't at second as Gentry rounded the bag. By the time Nelson, running now at about three-quarters speed, was halfway down the third-base line, the speedy Gentry was rounding the bag and he made it home standing up.
The homer, his first in the big leagues -- inside-the-park or otherwise -- put the Rangers up 5-0 in the fourth and it proved to be the winning runs in the 5-3 victory that reduced the Rangers' magic number to one.
"He's pretty fast," said Cruz, who didn't realize when he scored that Gentry was on his tail and coming home. "I didn't know what was going on. When I scored I was like, 'What happened, is that run that important?' Everyone was going crazy. And then I was like, 'Oh, oh, he was right behind me."
Gentry became the first Rangers player to hit an inside-the-park homer since Cruz did it at Oakland on Sept. 4, 2006. Remarkably, Gentry is the third player this season to hit one and for all three it was their first career homers (Cubs Tony Campana, Aug. 5, and Astros Jose Altuve, Aug. 20). It's the fifth inside-the-parker hit at Rangers Ballpark and the first since Cleveland's Grady Sizemore on Sept. 24, 2006. The only Rangers to hit one at the Ballpark was Luis Alicea on June 23, 2000, against Tampa Bay.
"The second that both those guys dove for it, we knew they had no shot at getting him. He's just too fast," Michael Young said. "Adrian [Beltre] and I were in the video room and as soon as we saw them both dive, we started sprinting to the dugout because we knew Craig was probably going to be there before we were."
They beat him there, but not by much, Young said.
For the rookie Gentry, Friday's 1-for-2 night, including a hit-by-pitch in the second inning, continued a relative hot streak. His four-game hit streak was snapped Thursday, but the homer makes him 10-for-23 in his last eight games to boost his average to .270.
Gentry said he hit one other inside-the-park home run in Double-A. When he got into the dugout, he asked manager Ron Washington if that was a home run. Washington said yes.
"I was like I need that ball, that's my first one," Gentry said. "So he ran out there and got it for me. So, yeah, that's special for me."