Take a bow, Nelson Cruz.
Already having homered to give the Rangers their third run in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Tigers, Cruz unleashed some more fury Monday, tying the game with a solo bomb in the seventh and then hitting a rare walkoff grand slam in the 11th as the Rangers won 7-3.
Cruz, who was just 1-for-15 in the ALDS against the Rays, has nine homers, seven doubles and 16 RBI in 22 games over the last two postseasons. He was instrumental in the Rangers’ run to the World Series last year, hitting six homers and knocking in 11 runs.
And now Cruz, who went from hitting .318 in 2010 to .263 this year, is hot again. He certainly has to be taken seriously as one of the game’s top sluggers when he’s on. Over the last three seasons, he ranks 11th in baseball in slugging percentage at .534, leaving him just a tad behind guys like Ryan Braun (.548), Prince Fielder (.547) and teammate Josh Hamilton (.546). His production is inflated by playing in Texas and his rate stats probably wouldn’t be as strong anywhere else, but there’s no questioning his power.
One need merely ask Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Ryan Perry about that.
The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.
The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.
Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.
The matchups for Tuesday’s action:
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.
Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.
The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.