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Cruz defying Father Time with 4 hits in rout

Slugger homers and doubles three times in second game back from IL
@dohyoungpark
August 21, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Father Time has done nothing to slow the production of Twins slugger Nelson Cruz. As it turns out, a ruptured tendon in his left wrist is no match for him, either. Despite a 10-day hiatus for Cruz on the injured list to get his wrist examined, the designated

MINNEAPOLIS -- Father Time has done nothing to slow the production of Twins slugger Nelson Cruz. As it turns out, a ruptured tendon in his left wrist is no match for him, either.

Despite a 10-day hiatus for Cruz on the injured list to get his wrist examined, the designated hitter’s torrid second half rolled on with a solo homer and three doubles, including a go-ahead two-run knock, as part of his second straight multihit effort in his return to the lineup. It also marked his fourth four-hit game of the season.

Cruz first tied the game and then gave Minnesota the lead with his three RBIs as the Twins -- powered by another cameo from Target Field’s "rally squirrel" -- cruised to a 14-4 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday, extending their lead over the Indians in the American League Central to three games following Cleveland’s loss to the Mets.

Box score

“This is something where, 12 days ago, we didn’t know what was going to happen next,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “And now, 12 days later, we’re not even two weeks out, and you’re watching him swing and you’re going, ‘He doesn’t just look fine, he looks fantastic.’”

But really, this kind of performance has just been par for the course for Cruz this second half.

It’s a reflection of how thoroughly hot Cruz has been that Tuesday’s effort marked the fourth time he recorded at least 10 total bases in a game since the Midsummer Classic -- unsurprisingly, best in the Majors. Cruz became the sixth player in Twins history to knock four extra-base hits in a game, and the first since Michael Cuddyer on Sept. 21, 2005.

Max Kepler hit a two-run homer -- his team-leading 34th of the season -- and added an RBI double in the eighth, while C.J. Cron also clubbed a three-run double as part of a 14-hit outburst behind seven strong frames from Michael Pineda.

The scary thing -- for opposing pitchers, that is -- is that Cruz still feels like he’s getting warmed up after his stint on the IL.

“It definitely takes a few days to get the timing, especially for breaking pitches,” Cruz said. “I feel like yesterday I wasn’t tracking well; I feel like today, it was better.”

Sure doesn’t seem like it with the way he’s playing.

Cruz is now 6-for-10 with two singles, three doubles and a homer since his return from the injured list. Significantly, six of his 10 batted balls since his injury have been hit in excess of 100 mph, a great sign that the wrist hasn’t affected his ability to barrel the ball. He entered the game second in the Major Leagues to only the Yankees' Aaron Judge in average exit velocity -- and now, he’s finally pain free.

“Even when I came back [from the IL for the first time in June], I was still sore,” Cruz said. “Now, the second day, I was good. I guess I’ll be able to swing and keep my swing sharp.”

Due to the injury, it had been a while since Baldelli needed to find a new way to describe yet another one of Cruz’s outstanding performances at the plate. The skipper had better get his thesaurus ready if Cruz is going to continue on this tear.

“We’ve run out of words very quickly,” Baldelli said. “We can talk about it and try to figure out cool ways to describe his achievements, but it’s very difficult because he does things that very few players in all of the game can do.”

The 39-year-old veteran led the Major Leagues with 16 homers and a 1.301 OPS in the second half entering the game, and he wasted little time in adding to those gaudy totals when he muscled a solo shot to left off Reynaldo Lopez in the fourth inning that tied the game at 3.

Cruz got a big opportunity with the bases loaded one inning later, when the Twins took advantage of a missed catch error by Jose Abreu with two outs to load the bases. He won a seven-pitch at-bat by cranking a fastball to the right-field wall for a two-run double to give the Twins a lead they would never relinquish.

And though the game was well out of hand by that point, Cruz starred in the Twins’ seven-run outburst in the eighth inning with a pair of ringing doubles into the left-field corner clocked at 112.4 mph and 112.8 mph to cap his four-hit game.

"Just another day [for Cruz],” said reliever Trevor May, who pitched a scoreless ninth. “He literally picked up right where he left off. He's just a scary guy to pitch to, man. … He's a veteran, he's been around a long time, and he knows that he can almost bully people standing in the box, even though the ball's in the pitcher's court most of the time. We are successful more than them, but with him, it feels like it's the other way.”

Added Cron: “We’re happy to have him on our side, for sure."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.