Cruz opens homer floodgates to power Rangers past Astros

05/10/2013 11:08 PM

05/16/2013 6:05 PM

Ron Washington had never seen it in person until Friday night. He’s sure it’s been done before, but he had never seen a ball hit off the glass panels well beyond the left-field wall at Minute Maid Park until Nelson Cruz did it.

Cruz sent a towering shot off above the railroad tracks and off those glass panels in the sixth inning, which tied the game and sparked the Texas Rangers to a 4-2 victory over the Astros.

“That was a bomb,” Washington said.

Yes, it was. And it was the buzz throughout the Rangers’ clubhouse afterwards. The Astros’ post-game notes listed the homer at 416-feet, but a few local writers believed it would have left the stadium completely had the roof been open.

Or, as Washington put it, “It might have caught the upper deck [at Rangers Ballpark] in Arlington.”

The Cruz homer came at a time when the Rangers were trailing 2-1 and struggling to get anything going against Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel.

The Rangers had managed only one run over five innings, stranding four runners on base through the first four innings. And they had two outs in the sixth inning before Cruz came through with his eighth homer of the season, on a cutter thrown by Keuchel.

“I hit it pretty well,” Cruz said in an understatement.

An inning later, Jeff Baker delivered the go-ahead run with a solo shot that narrowly cleared the right-field wall. And David Murphy provided an insurance run with a homer in the ninth.

Washington said any ball that leaves the ballpark is classified as a “bomb” in his book.

Baker appreciated that, but said the difference between his and Cruz’s homer was “about 150-200 feet.

“He’s a strong dude. Man, he’s got some power. When he gets into his pitches, they’re not wall scrapers or have any doubt about them. He picked us up big there and got us back in the game in a hurry.”

Cruz has had a tendency to deliver impact homers all season. Four of his eight homers have come when the Rangers were trailing, with two of them serving as game-tying shots, and the other two pulling the team to within a run.

“You’re aware of that and you try to get more selective and get a good pitch to hit,” Cruz said.

The three long balls were certainly necessary for the Rangers to win the opener of the three-game series against the Astros, owners of the worst record in the American League. Texas entered the game with only 14 home runs on the road, lowest in the AL.

The homers capped off a night in which the Rangers finished stronger than they started. Starter Alexi Ogando pitched well, but saw his night cut short because of too many walks. He gave up single runs in the second and third innings, the latter on a wild pitch.

Washington said the third inning “giveaway run” was caused by several factors. Ogando was a spectator on the mound and didn’t get to home plate fast enough, catcher Geovany Soto was arguing for a swinging strike call while getting the ball and nobody yelled that the runner was heading home.

“I didn’t even yell anything from the dugout, so it caught me, too,” Washington said.

But Ogando settled down after that, retiring nine of 11 batters before giving up a two-out single in the sixth. That ended Ogando’s night, but the Rangers bullpen retired all 10 batters it faced.

Robbie Ross worked 1 1/3 perfect innings, Tanner Scheppers followed with a 1-2-3 eighth and Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 10th save.

“The bullpen was outstanding,” Washington said.

Just not as memorable as Cruz’s home run.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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