Red-hot Cruz honored with AL Player of the Week Award
Mariners slugger slams eight HRs, caps stretch with walk-off single vs. Rangers
SEATTLE -- Right fielder Nelson Cruz wasted no time making an impact on the Mariners' offense, and the big slugger's imprint was noticed, as he earned American League Player of the Week honors on Monday for his powerful performance over the previous seven days.
Cruz, 34, was selected for the week of April 13-19, during which he hit .500 with six home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs and a 1.806 OPS in six games. The big man was so good in that stretch that his manager figures he already has a step up on his next award.
"He'll probably be Player of the Month," Lloyd McClendon said. "You'd be hard-pressed to beat that. He's been outstanding."
It is the fourth AL Player of the Week Award for Cruz in his 11-year career, and his first with the Mariners after signing a four-year, $57 million deal in December.
Cruz had a hit in every game against the Dodgers and Rangers, and he reached base 15 times, with a two-homer day on Sunday that he capped with a bases-loaded walk-off single in the ninth inning for an 11-10 victory over Texas.
"It feels great," Cruz said. "It means I'm helping my team to win games."
In the six games, Cruz led the Majors in home runs, RBIs and OPS, as well as slugging percentage (1.250) and total bases (30). He also was second in the Majors in runs and tied for third in hits, and he had the third-highest batting average and on-base percentage (.556) among qualified AL hitters.
Cruz won the AL Player of the Week Award twice last season with the Orioles (June 2 and Sept. 8) and once with the Rangers (May 24, 2010).
After going 1-for-15 with no RBIs in his first four games with Seattle, Cruz has gone on a tear. Heading into Monday's series opener with the Astros at Safeco Field, he's leading the Majors with eight home runs while hitting .354 with 14 RBIs and a 1.258 OPS.
Dating back to the previous week, Cruz had eight home runs in an eight-game span. The only other Mariners to match that accomplishment were Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993 and Jay Buhner in 1996. Cruz is the first player in the Majors with eight home runs in the first 12 games of the season since Alex Rodriguez in 2007, when he went on to club 54 home runs and drive in 156 before winning the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
Cruz led the Majors with 40 home runs in 2014 for the Orioles, and McClendon said Cruz's ability to adjust quickly to a new team has been impressive.
"Coming to a new club, there's always pressure to do good and get off to a good start," McClendon said. "But with that at-bat [on Sunday] to win a ballgame, you saw a very calm guy at the plate. He really slowed things down and did quite a good job of winning that ballgame for us. And that's what veterans do."
Cruz is the first Mariners player to earn AL Player of the Week honors since Kyle Seager was selected on June 30 last season. Seager won the award twice in 2014 (the first time on April 28), and Felix Hernandez was selected on June 9.