ST. LOUIS — Unjustly or not, Nelson Cruz found a spiteful spotlight shined on him here this weekend.Busch Stadium, after all, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, is where the nightmare took place. The Game 6 nightmare. The night that the Texas Rangers, one strike away from winning the 2011 World Series, let it all slip away. To the winning Cardinals, David Freeses line drive triple to the wall in right field two years ago will forever be remembered as one of the greatest clutch hits in the franchises storied history. For Rangers outfielder Cruz, alas, it was more like The Horror in Right Field. Before Saturday nights game, the second in the weekend series with the National League Cardinals, Cruz again found himself answering questions about that night in 2011. Again, as hes done unfailingly in a Texas uniform, Cruz handled the queries with his own quiet touch of grace. There are a lot of places where you can go and have bad memories, he said. Any place you go theres going to be good memories and bad memories about something.So I just try to stay with the good memories.And make new ones something that Cruz has been accomplishing all weekend.For the second night in a row, a Cruz hit this time a two-run, opposite field home run provided the winning runs in a 4-2 Rangers victory.In the series opener Friday night, Cruzs two-run single in the top of the ninth inning made the difference in a 6-4 win.In nine trips to the plate this weekend, Cruz has four hits and has driven in five runs. He has played right field efficiently, if not necessarily flawlessly. On Shane Robinsons sinking liner in the seventh inning Saturday, Cruzs feet skidded out from under him on the damp outfield grass. His slip left a prominent divot in the Busch outfield. But Cruz half sighing, half appearing to giggle at his misstep made the catch.It was a dog days night at Busch Stadium on Saturday. The occasion was the ninth annual Purina Pooches in the Ballpark, when dog owners get to dress their canines in Redbirds-related costumes and walk in a pregame parade.And then the game began, and Cruz set about marking his territory.Right field has been all his.Right field is where he made the impromptu sliding catch Saturday. And the right-field seats are where Cruz launched his game-winning home run.When the team has needed me, Ive been able to deliver, Cruz said.The home run was his team-leading 19th and he has driven in 55 runs. His ninth-inning single Friday was special, he admitted, but not for the reason that most Rangers would think.At that point in the game, where youve got to have an RBI, I guess any hit is going to feel special, Cruz said.But we want to win. Thats the main point. I think were on a pretty good run right now. Weve played really good lately.What only last week was a stretch where the Rangers had lost nine of 11 is now a four-game winning streak over two teams who are leading their divisions.Manager Ron Washington was asked if, mindful of the Return-to-the-Nightmare spotlight on Cruz, he felt happy for his slugging right fielder.I always feel good for Nelson, Washington said. But I didnt feel good because of what happened in the World Series. I felt good because his hit was something we needed at the time, and Nelson delivered.We dealt with that in our own way.For Cruz, that has meant handling the unkind spotlight this weekend in his own quiet way. If he should have to leave this Rangers lineup for an extended period, it could turn their season upside down. But thats a story for another day.Here, hes trying this weekend to make some new memories.You have to applaud right fielder Nelson Cruz or bark for him for that.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton