The Return of Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz returned to several cheers by Rangers fans as a Baltimore Oriole. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
Nelson Cruz returned to several cheers by Rangers fans as a Baltimore Oriole. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison

By Will Martin

An eight year run in Arlington that didn’t exactly end positive note for an ex Ranger.

Being visited by a team loaded with ex-Rangers by way of Baltimore starting with skipper Buck Showalter, Chris Davis, Darren O’ Day, and the latest acquisition Nelson Cruz.

Rangers fans would be in their right to be as mad at him as they were with Josh Hamilton after his comments about Texas ‘not being a baseball town’.

A fifty game suspension for a failed drug test at the peak of a pennant chase in the A.L. West.

No Cruz missiles to look forward to until the day of that one game playoff loss to the Rays last October.

His 92 home runs hit as a Ranger at Globe Life Park place him sixth amongst the leaders. Unlike Hambone, Nellie didn’t make many waves. He just went out and played when healthy. If fans want to be mad about the outfield misplay of a fly ball to right field when David Freese went deep in 2011, that’s sort of understandable.

The blame however does not completely fall on him. There’s Neftali Feliz who fell short. 1 strike away…

Tuesday night’s first game as anything other than a Ranger for Nelson Cruz was actually quite underwhelming. The fans stood and applauded with a hearty round of ‘Cruuuuuuuz’ and no boos in the first inning. There were even a few fans still applauding him despite playing for the enemy.

For whatever reason the former Ranger has not been playing well at home. This despite a well played game for the first seven innings of this game with the Orioles. Ubaldo Jimenez and Joe Saunders both pitched well, got to the 101 pitch count, and got needed outs when the situation called for it.

It was a warn humid 88 degree night at first pitch as the flags were blowing in from right field.

‘Multiple Homer Night’, I muttered.

That would be in the case when Adam Jones and Adrian Beltre each hit solo blasts in the fourth stanza. Robinson Chirinos would also hit a blast in the seventh to tie up what had been a pitchers duel between Jimenez and Saunders 2-2.

Then came the 8th inning for Baltimore. Not a fun one for JJ Hardy who made two outs in the inning. The Orioles sent ten men to the plate and plated six runs. Three of those on a first pitch three run 404 foot blast from Nelson Cruz off the arm of Shawn Tolleson for what became an 8-2 lead for the Orioles.

After the collective moan and groan close to the half the 31,542 fans headed for the exits in what became an 8-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Nelson Cruz with that blast now has 21 dingers and 55 ribbies. He leads all players at DH and the outfield with those numbers. This on the heels of getting beaned in the hand by Scott Feldman at Houston on Sunday. X-Rays were negative.

His homer Tuesday night almost didn’t come to pass.

“I was cramping since the fourth inning,” said Cruz, who had to convince manager Buck Showalter he was OK from the on-deck circle. “It was bad. I wanted to take my last at-bat and hopefully get something going.”

“That was a cramp trot,” Showalter said of Cruz. “I thought tonight he was real calm. He was real confident in terms of knowing what he’s got to do. He didn’t let them take him out of the strike zone.”

Even Wash had to state the obvious in this reunion of sorts.

“He’s swinging the bat well,” Washington said of Cruz. “We have seen him do it before. We got him out all night, but when we needed to do it, we didn’t get it done.”

Nellie, with apologies to Hall and Oates how does it feel to be back?

“It was kind of weird,” Cruz said Tuesday afternoon. “It was kind of like one of my first days in the big leagues. Everything was going fast, but after the first at-bat, you try to stay in the moment and stay focused. The fans and the media. It was kind of quick.”

Even with the loss Joe Saunders was solid for five and two thirds innings.

“The guys were kind of frustrated early,” Showalter said. “There were six balls we hit hard. Manny, the worst ball he hit tonight is the one he got a base hit on. It’s a process. Joe has always been good at minimizing the damage and keeping his team in the game, the way he can sink some balls with ground balls. He can frustrate you, but we finally got some big at-bats and got some people out there.”

Baltimore improved to 29-27 while the Rangers fell to 29-29.

Welcome back Nellie. Kudos to the fans who chose to remember all the good things he did. Like that 6 Homer 11 RBI postseason run in 2011. That’s what I will always remember.