SEATTLE -- Rangers pitcher Mike Minor has had some trouble giving up the home run, and one big swing by Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz proved tough to overcome on Thursday night.It might have been wise to avoid Cruz altogether in that situation. But, with two outs and a runner
SEATTLE -- Rangers pitcher Mike Minor has had some trouble giving up the home run, and one big swing by Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz proved tough to overcome on Thursday night.
It might have been wise to avoid Cruz altogether in that situation. But, with two outs and a runner at third in the third inning, Cruz smashed a first-pitch fastball deep over the left-field wall for a two-run home run that gave the Mariners a 3-0 lead, and they went on to a 6-1 victory at Safeco Field.
Minor took the loss, allowing five runs on six hits with two walks over five innings, and the Rangers, limited to Nomar Mazara's 13th homer, ended up splitting the four-game series.
Cruz's homer was the only one allowed by Minor on Thursday, but he has allowed 11 in 59 1/3 innings this season. That's 1.67 per nine innings, which would be among the top 10 in the American League if Minor had enough innings to qualify for the leaderboards.
"A lot of the other outings he has pitched better than the numbers indicated," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Little bit different tonight. He couldn't get the fastball down, the changeup wasn't sharp and the breaking ball wasn't sharp. It seems like tonight the stuff was a tick off other outings."
The Rangers trailed 1-0 into the third when Jean Segura reached on a one-out double and went to third on a grounder by Mitch Haniger. That brought up Cruz with first base open. Rather than putting the big man on, Minor went with a first-pitch fastball and Cruz jumped on it. The exit velocity was 109.7 mph as the slugger picked up his 10th homer of the season.
"I don't know why I threw that pitch," Minor said. "But that's hindsight, but if the pitch is down or he swings through it, we're not talking about it. We had been pounding him inside with the curveball this start and the last start. I thought we could surprise him. We didn't surprise him."
The good fastball has been elusive for Minor. Coming into Thursday, hitters had a .341 batting average and .682 slugging percent against the pitch, with seven home runs. The .682 slugging percentage was the fifth highest of 94 starting pitchers with 50+ plate appearances ending on four-seam fastballs this season.
"Obviously not the pitch Mike wanted to make," Banister said. "Looking to get Cruz to chase, we know he is in a swing mode. You still have to make quality pitches. Looked like he was trying to go up and out of the strike zone. I trust him and [catcher Robinson Chirinos], they know what they are doing."
Cruz has been known to be dangerous on first-pitch heat. He entered Thursday's game with a .703 slugging percentage and 11 home runs on first-pitch fastballs since 2005. That puts him in the top 20 percent in those situations, according to Statcast™.
"I don't think I pitched very well tonight," Minor said. "I was all over the zone today. I didn't make very many quality pitches and walked too many guys. Guys were on base all the time, and I was grinding every inning."
Cruz hasn't been off to a great start, but he has been tough on his former team. He was 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly on Thursday and is now 15-for-31 (.484) with three home runs and eight RBIs over eight games vs. the Rangers. He is hitting .191 against all other teams.
"I wasn't looking for anything particular, just something I could drive," Cruz said. "I guess it was a good swing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Mariners, leading 3-1, had runners at first and third with one out in the fifth when Haniger smashed a hard grounder to the left-side hole. Third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa made a tremendous diving stop and had a possible inning-ending double play. But his throw to get Segura at second ended up in right field. One run scored, Segura ended up at third and he scored on Cruz's sacrifice fly.
ADRIAN PADS RESUME IN RETURN FROM DL
Adrian Beltre, in his first game back from a left hamstring injury, singled in the fourth but wasn't able to score from first base on Jurickson Profar's double into the right-field corner even though the ball caromed away from right fielder Haniger. Beltre had to stop at third and was stranded there. He had another single in the sixth to pass Cap Anson for 22nd on the all-time hits list, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, with 3,082 hits. Ichiro Suzuki is next with 3,089. More >
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Delino DeShields made an another terrific catch in center field. Cruz sent him to the warning track in the first inning, but DeShields ran down the ball for the out. Statcast™ gave it a four-star rating because he had to go 96 feet in 5.4 seconds for a catch that he had a 26 percent chance of making.
HE SAID IT
"Well, obviously the fourth inning was the challenge for us. We had an opportunity to put a couple of runs on the board, then we get a strikeout and a flyout. We were unable to get any runs across at that time. That was the inning that did it in," -- Banister, on the Rangers wasting a scoring opportunity against lefty Wade LeBlanc, who picked up his first win as a starter in nearly two years
Video: TEX@SEA: Banister on 6-1 loss, Beltre's return
Bartolo Colon faces his former team when the Rangers open a three-game series with the Angels at 9:07 CT on Friday night at Angel Stadium. Colon is 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts and one relief appearance in his career against the Halos. The one relief appearance was on April 10, when he allowed one run in three innings. He is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA in his last six starts. Jaime Barria will pitch for the Angels.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.