Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz celebrates after hitting a solo home run against the Detroit Tigers during the fourth inning of Game 1 of the MLB American League Championship Series baseball playoffs in Arlington

Nelson Cruz comes alive, plays hero in ALCS Game 1 win

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It might not be remembered this way because of Game 1’s dual rain delays and the lights-out performance by the Rangers’ bullpen, but Nelson Cruz’s solo home run to left field in the bottom of the fourth inning proved to be a game-winning blast.

And considering he hit it off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, we may as well call the dinger heroic.

Cruz was just 1-for-15 entering the ALCS and mired in an 0-for-10 postseason slump, but he came alive at exactly the right time and sent a towering shot into the left field seats. It was his only hit of the game, and perhaps he’ll again go cold, but he deserves credit for snapping out at the right moment in Saturday’s 3-2 ALCS Game 1 victory.

Cruz was a .263/.312/.509 hitter during the regular season with 29 homers and 87 RBI. Hamstring injuries kept him from entering the stretch run in an offensive groove, but he might be the most dangerous No. 7 batter in ALCS history. Perhaps he’ll climb his way back up the Rangers’ starting lineup before October is through.

Report: Mariners have interest in Reds’ Jay Bruce

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 14:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds waits to bat prior to hitting a three-run homer in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 14, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Mariners are among the teams that have contacted the Reds about outfielder Jay Bruce. The Mariners enter play Wednesday 51-48, six games out of first place in the AL West and 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot. Adding an impact bat like Bruce could help in their effort to reach the postseason.

Norichika Aoki and Seth Smith have handled the bulk of the playing time in left field. While Smith has hit well, Aoki has not. Bruce came into Wednesday’s game against the Giants batting .271/.324/.567 with 24 home runs and a league-best 78 RBI.

Bruce can become a free agent after the season if his controlling team declines his $13 million club option for the 2017 season by paying him a $1 million buyout. If he’s traded mid-season, his new team won’t be able to make him a qualifying offer, so the club option may be more enticing than it looks at first glance.

The Padres have homered in 25 consecutive games, tying an NL record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 16:  Adam Rosales #9 of the San Diego Padres hits an RBI single during the tenth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at PETCO Park on July 16, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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A third-inning two-run home run by Adam Rosales off of R.A. Dickey put the Padres up 2-0, but it also helped the Padres tie a National League record. The Padres have homered in 25 consecutive games, matching the 1998 Braves, the 1994 Tigers, and the 1941 Yankees. The major league record is 27, set by the 2002 Rangers.

The Padres hit three in total on Wednesday in an 8-4 victory against the Blue Jays. One of those dingers was an eighth-inning solo shot by rookie Alex Dickerson, who has now homered in four consecutive games himself. The one he hit on Monday is worth watching, as it got into the upper deck at the Rogers Centre.

As the Padres recently traded Melvin Upton, Jr. to the Jays, Dickerson is likely going to see regular playing time. That’s especially true if he keeps hitting like this.