SEATTLE -- A Mariners team searching for offense at Safeco Field has seen one positive the past two days with the awakening of Nelson Cruz in the cleanup spot as the big slugger ripped a double and homer and accounted for all three RBIs in Monday's 7-3 loss to the Rangers.
Obviously it's going to take more than just Cruz to carry the offense for a team that has scored only seven runs while losing its first four home games of the season, but it's a welcomed sign to see last year's Silver Slugger winner warming up.
After batting .211 with one homer and one RBI in the season's first five games, Cruz has gone 4-for-8 with two doubles, a homer and three runs batted in the past two outings to hike his average to .296.
"I think my swing is there," Cruz said. "It was just a matter of time."
Unfortunately for the Mariners, Cruz's emergence has come at a time when teammate Robinson Cano has cooled considerably. Cano opened the year with four homers and seven RBIs in three games in Texas, but is 2-for-16 with no RBIs in Seattle's homestand as his average has plummeted to .207.
"I still feel good," Cano said after going 0-for-4. "My swing feels real good. It just has to happen in the game. You're not going to get a hit every day. You forget about what happened today and get ready for tomorrow."
But Cano is encouraged by the sight of Cruz's thunder returning to the lineup. The 34-year-old doubled in the first off Colby Lewis to give Seattle an early lead, then homered to dead center on a 1-0 curve from Keone Kela in the ninth for a two-run shot that Statcast™ projected at 402 feet away from home.
"It's always good to see him hit like that," Cano said. "When he makes contact, he can hit it out of the ballpark anywhere. That was a bullet. I thought it was going to hit the wall. But he's strong, man. He's got sick power."
But Cruz, who finished second in the Majors with 44 homers last year, wasn't relishing his second round-tripper of 2016. Instead, he focused on the lack of production from a lineup that has gone just 3-for-24 with men in scoring position in the four home games.
"We need to get it done," Cruz said. "We need to get runners on base and the middle of the lineup should drive them in. That's it. It's nothing complicated. That's what should be done."
Yet Cruz also has been around long enough to know things can change in a hurry. The Mariners scored 21 runs in three games in Texas, but have slumped since coming home.
"It's a long season," he said. "You have to see it that way. You can't let it get in your head. We have to take one at a time and just forget about four games or whatever we've had. That's the way we have to look at it."