Extra bases: Cruz carries Rangers again

We'll know some time in this calendar year if this is the last season as a Ranger for free-agent-to-be right fielder Nelson Cruz.

So it's worth taking the time to appreciate how Cruz over the years has been able to carry the Rangers' offense for stretches. He's going through one of those get-on-my-back moments this week.

Cruz has been the backbone of the offense. He drove in the Rangers' first run in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Minnesota as his road-weary team played a game 12 hours after arriving in the Twins Cities.

He would have homered for the fourth straight game Thursday night if he were playing in any ballpark but Target Field. Cruz's missile of a line drive in the second inning slammed against the extended cemented wall in right field, scoring Adrian Beltre for a 1-0 lead. The ball bounced back so quickly back to Twins right fielder Chris Parmelee that he was able to throw out Cruz trying to turn a single into a double.

Cruz has RBIs in five straight games, totaling 12 after driving in six runs in the Rangers' first 17 games. He starts Friday's games sixth in the American League in RBIs, eight behind former teammate Mike Napoli now playing for Boston. Cruz has overtaken Ian Kinsler for the team lead.

Cruz's latest stretch is why he's so valuable to a lineup. And while Cruz didn't make the catch fans will never ever forget in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, it's become easy to take for granted what he has meant to the Rangers' offense in the regular season and postseason.

Don't forget Cruz has the most home runs and RBIs in a postseasons series in baseball history when he went for 6 HRs and 13 RBIs in the 2011 American League Championship Series against Detroit. Another case of Nellie being Nellie.

Enjoy Cruz's latest streak while you can. This might be one of the last ones in Texas.

A new more notes from Thursday's series-opening win in Minnesota:

1. Hot start: The Rangers at 15-7 are off to their third best start in franchise history after 22 games. Only the 1989 Rangers led by new acquisitions Nolan Ryan (free agent) and Rafael Palmeiro and Julio Franco (trades) have started a season better with a 17-5 record. The '89 Rangers finished 83-79. The 2012 Rangers opened the season with a 16-6 record. You know the story of how last year's team finished.

2. Series machine: The Rangers haven't lost a series -- at 5-0-2 the only team in baseball not too -- and are a good bet to win or at least split this four-game series with the Twins after winning Game 1 Thursday. The Rangers are 17-0-2 in their 19 series when they win the opener.

3. Making Worley work: The Rangers put Twins start Vance Worley to work Thursday night. Worley threw 102 pitches in five innings as the Rangers continued their season trend of getting to an opponent's bullpen. The highlight was No. 9 hitter Leonys Martin fouling off seven consecutive pitches in the second inning as Worley threw 37 pitches. It didn't lead to a big offensive night for the Rangers, but a similar approach on Friday night probably will.