Cruz amazes with 2nd 3-HR game in 10 days

Baldelli: 'What we’re watching right now...I haven’t seen anything like it'

August 4th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nelson Cruz is making his home runs seem so routine that some players in the Twins’ dugout don’t exactly know how to handle it.

“Do we just celebrate every single time, or do we just treat this as a normal at-bat every time and pat him on the back a little bit?” starter said.

The answer?

"Yeah, you celebrate it!” said. “Every homer, you celebrate. You score runs. It's fun to hit home runs and score runs.”

Cruz has given his teammates plenty of chances to contemplate that question in the last two weeks.

The 39-year-old slugger smashed three more homers, including a 466-foot blast to the third deck in left-center field, in the Twins’ 11-3 victory over the Royals on Saturday at Target Field to notch his second three-homer game in 10 days and his second consecutive game with five RBIs.

Cruz, the reigning American League Player of the Week, has 11 homers and 23 RBIs in his last nine starts.

“Well, my vocabulary is not good enough to really do the guy justice,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He continues to impress even us. We get to see a lot of really interesting and exceptional performances in this game. If you’re around long enough, you see a lot of impressive things, but what we’re watching right now is something that the likes of it, I haven’t seen anything like it before.”

“I mean, he's not missing,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “You throw something that's got a little too much of the plate, and he's gonna ride it.”

The three blasts pushed Cruz’s season homer total to 30, tying him with for the team lead and giving him 30 or more homers in each of the last six seasons. All 30 of Cruz’s homers have come as a designated hitter, breaking Chili Davis’ 1991 record for most single-season homers hit by a designated hitter in club history.

“I’ve just been able to stay healthy,” Cruz said. “I thank God for giving me a chance to be able to play many games with the work you put in and the discipline to take care of your body and all that.”

The historic feats don’t stop there. Cruz is the first Twins player with more than one three-homer game in a season, and the effort also marked his fourth game of the season with five RBIs, tying Jason Kubel in 2009 for the most such games in Twins history.

Cruz’s night fueled the Twins’ 10th game in 2019 with five or more homers, extending their Major League record for most such games in a season. The Twins have now clubbed 216 homers as a team this season, the third-most in franchise history and only nine shy of the club record of 225.

The evening started with an opposite-field two-run blast in the first inning that barely snuck inside the right-field foul pole to give the Twins a 2-0 lead against Royals left-hander Danny Duffy. Cruz's next homer came one inning later, when he went back to back with with the 466-foot shot to left-center. His third blast was another opposite-field shot in the sixth inning against Royals right-hander Jorge Lopez, settling an estimated 379 feet away from home plate in the right-field bleachers.

“When I'm doing good, that's the part of the field that I hit it,” Cruz said.

Cruz became the third hitter in Major League history with a pair of three-homer games within 10 days of each other, joining Doug DeCinces of the 1982 California Angels and Johnny Mize of the 1938 St. Louis Cardinals.

When asked to recall the last time he had a run this good, Cruz pointed to his first few weeks in Seattle when he first signed with the Mariners in 2015. He hit 14 homers in his first 26 games that season.

Cruz might very well be enjoying the hottest stretch of his 15-year career -- yes, now, less than a year away from turning 40. Not that it’s surprising to anyone around him.

“It's something where when you see him take BP or you see his swing path or pitch against him, you know that's the type of swing path he has,” Gibson said. “He keeps the bat in the zone a long time, and when he gets the pitch he's looking for and in the location he's looking at, it's really hard to get him out.”

“Are we surprised that we’re seeing it from him? Absolutely not,” said Baldelli, nearly 15 months younger than Cruz. “It’s just what he does. He continues to go out there and produce at levels that nobody else does.”