PEORIA, Ariz. -- Nelson Cruz got off to a slow start this spring, but the Mariners slugger is heating up nicely with three homers in his last five games, including a game-tying two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth that helped send Seattle to a 5-4, 10-inning victory over
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Nelson Cruz got off to a slow start this spring, but the Mariners slugger is heating up nicely with three homers in his last five games, including a game-tying two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth that helped send Seattle to a 5-4, 10-inning victory over the White Sox on Friday.
After going 0-for-15 in his first seven games, Cruz is 6-for-21 in his last six outings to lift his Cactus League average to .167. The 35-year-old is still getting his timing down; he walked and struck out twice in his first three plate appearances against starter Jose Quintana before blasting a 2-1 pitch off reliever Jacob Turner following a leadoff double by Robinson Cano in the ninth.
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"Nelson was kind of struggling earlier in the day, but that's what those big boppers do," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "They may not look great all the time, but they always bring a threat to the plate. He got a pitch and obviously didn't miss it."
That set up a walk-off winner for center fielder Leonys Martin, who added to Turner's woes by sending a 1-0 pitch soaring into the berm beyond the right-field fence at Peoria Stadium with one out in the bottom of the 10th.
Martin also hasn't put up great numbers this spring and is batting .190 after his 1-for-4 day, but Servais said those results are misleading.
"He's actually hit the ball very well," Servais said. "He's hit a lot of hard balls without a lot of hits to show for it. So I'm happy for him. He smoked that ball. That ball was crushed."
The homer was Martin's second of the spring and made a winner of Minor League reliever Dan Altavilla, who escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th with help from shortstop Luis Sardinas. The 22-year-old utility infielder fielded a one-out chopper from Jason Coats and didn't hesitate in firing to the plate to force out Hector Sanchez, who bowled over catcher Rob Brantly.
"Great heads-up play by Sardinas," said Servais. "Most guys just go ahead and take one out there. He knows that's kind of the game on the line and it was an awesome, heads-up play."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.