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Strained groin derails Cruz's quest for HR title

Mariners slugger finishes season with 44 dingers

SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz was out of the lineup for Sunday's season finale, a 3-2 win over the A's, after tweaking his groin on Saturday night, meaning he will finish with a batting average above .300 [.302] for the first time since 2010.

It also means his bid for the Major League home run title will be cut by one game. Cruz was two homers short of his former teammate, Orioles slugger Chris Davis homered twice Sunday to lead the league in round-trippers with 47.

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"Yeah, it was huge I think for the city, for the team, but I guess congrats to him," said Cruz when asked about the competition between the powerful pair.

Cruz said the 2015 season was a disappointment for the Mariners because the club fell short of its postseason aspirations, but the Mariners felt Cruz's impact in his first season in Seattle, and in more ways than just home run distance. He led Seattle in batting average among qualified hitters, home runs, RBIs and on-base percentage, and manager Lloyd McClendon also described him as a leader in the clubhouse.

"He is who he is, he's not that type of [outspoken] person," McClendon said. "If something goes wrong, play-wise, he talks to teammates. I think he just does it in the right way, so that [the media doesn't] see it."

The 35-year-old's 44 home runs were the most by a Mariners hitter since Ken Griffey Jr.'s 48 in 1999 and he ends the season tied with Jay Buhner for the most home runs by a Mariners right-handed hitter. Those numbers came even with Cruz nursing a right quadriceps injury for most of September that kept him out of the lineup for six games and out of the outfield for the final month of the season.

Cruz said he'll take about two weeks to allow the quad to heal before starting his offseason routine.

"Rest. I'm going to rest," Cruz said. "I'll make sure I'll be more prepared next year, all the holes that I fill that I need to get better on I'll make sure I get it done for next season and whatever injuries I have this year I'll make sure I'll get better for next year."

Wait, holes?

"I feel like I left a lot of runners on, especially runners on third. [And] injuries, I guess," Cruz said. "Fill some holes that I need to fill, so that my quad doesn't affect me to miss games. So I'll be on top of those for next season."

Cruz just missed becoming the second Mariners hitter to lead the Major Leagues in home runs and his club didn't achieve what it set out to do with a fourth place finish in the American League West, but he's hopeful for a better outcome in 2016.

"I think you see the whole lineup it's pretty good what we have there," Cruz said. "Unfortunately we lost some games, tough games and they built. We can come up with some positive stuff, some guys came up and did a great job for us, and hopefully next year we accomplish what we came to do this year."

Andrew Erickson is an associate reporter for
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