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Cruz ends third-longest HR drought of career

Mariners DH hits solo shot vs. Royals on Wednesday
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- It wasn't enough for the victory, which meant Nelson Cruz certainly wasn't basking in any sort of glow after the Mariners lost, 9-6, to the Royals in 10 innings on Wednesday.

But if you're looking at the big picture, the sight of Cruz ripping his first home run in more than a month, and then hitting a liner just inches below the top of the wall in his next at-bat, stood as a significant positive in an otherwise difficult extra-inning loss -- Seattle's seventh straight at Safeco Field.

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SEATTLE -- It wasn't enough for the victory, which meant Nelson Cruz certainly wasn't basking in any sort of glow after the Mariners lost, 9-6, to the Royals in 10 innings on Wednesday.

But if you're looking at the big picture, the sight of Cruz ripping his first home run in more than a month, and then hitting a liner just inches below the top of the wall in his next at-bat, stood as a significant positive in an otherwise difficult extra-inning loss -- Seattle's seventh straight at Safeco Field.

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However, this one was different than the prior two losses to the Royals, as Seattle's offense awakened. After batting just .175 with two extra-base hits -- including one home run -- over their previous four games, the Mariners hit three homers and rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the first, before seeing things slip away at the end.

"The offense was there today," Cruz said. "We did a nice job coming from behind, and it felt like, 'OK, we've got it, we've got it.' But they got some clutch hits, and their bullpen did a good job, too. It was a shame. We should have got the victory today."

Cruz, who is headed to his fifth MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday, has continued to produce. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, increasing his season total to 63, which trails only Yankees rookie Aaron Judge (65) in the American League.

But Cruz had been stuck on 14 home runs since June 4, a span of 23 games and 87 at-bats between long balls. It was the third-longest homer drought of his career, and the longest since 2007, his second season with the Rangers early in his career.

Cruz has been hampered of late by a sore right knee, and that played a factor in getting thrown out at second by Royals left fielder Alex Gordon in the fifth on a 108-mph line drive he scorched off the top of the wall, as he tried to stretch the single into a double.

Video: KC@SEA: Gordon, Merrifield combine to cut down Cruz

"It feels like all my balls are hitting the top of the wall and not going out," Cruz said. "But hopefully from tomorrow on they'll go over the fence."

Cruz left no doubt with his third-inning smash, a 410-footer to left off Jason Vargas. And manager Scott Servais figures that could lead to more for the player who has hit more homers in the past four years than any other in the Majors.

"It's a game of inches. Six inches to a foot, and that other one was another home run," Servais said. "But it was great to see him get one out of the ballpark tonight. He can do that. He is streaky, and they will come in bunches for him."

Cruz fully agrees.

"I feel like it was just a matter of time," Cruz said. "They can come for a while, so you just stick with your plan, stick with your approach and trust it."

The biggest question figures to be his health. Cruz said his knee felt "OK," though it's obviously not 100 percent.

"It's good enough to play," Cruz said.

"You can see he's struggling, hobbling around on the field," Servais said. "But he's a gamer, he wants in and we certainly love his bat in our lineup. Hopefully, it continues to get better with the knee. He's just day to day with that."

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

Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz