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Cruz named Heart and Hustle winner

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

HOUSTON -- Nelson Cruz has been on quite a roll on the field, as he reached the 20-home run mark for a ninth straight year with his sixth blast in the past nine games on Monday.

But the big slugger has been a hit off the field as well, and on Tuesday was named the Mariners' recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association for a second straight year.

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HOUSTON -- Nelson Cruz has been on quite a roll on the field, as he reached the 20-home run mark for a ninth straight year with his sixth blast in the past nine games on Monday.

But the big slugger has been a hit off the field as well, and on Tuesday was named the Mariners' recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association for a second straight year.

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"It's special," Cruz said. "I guess people notice when you try to play hard every day, through injuries and try to give a little more than what you have. We have a lot of players who play hard here."

The 37-year-old also supports numerous causes for kids and communities in the Dominican Republic with his Boomstick23 Foundation.

"His work using sports and education to make a difference in children's lives embodies the spirit of this award," said MLBPAA chief executive officer Dan Foster.

Each Major League team has a player nominated for the national award, which will be announced Nov. 14 at the 18th annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York.

Cruz said helping people in need has become an increasingly important part of his life as he's gotten older.

"Definitely you try to do more every year. And people are willing to help you," Cruz said. "There are a lot of needs out in the world, especially where I'm coming from. To be able to help is a blessing. I think I get it from my dad. He's always staying involved with the communities and tries to get stuff done to help people.

"I see it through names that are recognized through baseball, especially [Roberto] Clemente and David Ortiz. I think everybody tries to bring something to the table to help."

Haniger could return Wednesday

Outfielder Mitch Haniger wasn't in the lineup for a third straight day on Tuesday due to a bruised right index finger, but could return by Wednesday's series finale with the Astros, manager Scott Servais said prior to Tuesday's game.

The right fielder took a pitch off his hand trying to bunt during Saturday's win over the White Sox. And while he took batting practice without much problem on Monday, the finger still isn't allowing him to grip the ball well enough to play in the field.

"He's doing much better," Servais said. "He took a pretty regular BP yesterday. The throwing is not 100 percent there. The finger still looks pretty gnarly, but it's not bothering him swinging the bat. There's a good chance he could be in there tomorrow."

Worth noting

Edwin Diaz became the first Mariners closer in franchise history to record saves in four consecutive games on Monday and the first reliever in the Majors to do so since Jeremy Jeffress of the Brewers in July of last season.

• Cruz and Kyle Seager each homered in their third straight games on Monday, becoming just the fourth duo in franchise history to achieve that feat. The others were Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson in 2005, Dan Wilson and Jay Buhner in '95 and Mike Blowers and Buhner in '95. No duo has ever homered in four straight games.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz