After 16 seasons and 400-plus home runs, it’s hardly a surprise when Nelson Cruz gets hot and carries a team on his broad back like few sluggers can — even at age 40, when the Minnesota Twins DH enjoyed another MVP-worthy year in this pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
But on this day in béisbol, Oct. 15, 2011, Cruz outdid himself, wrapping up a ridiculous, record-breaking ALCS series in which he led the Texas Rangers to their second World Series berth in two years.
Cruz, then the Rangers’ rightfielder, “only” went 2-for-4 with a two-run bomb and a double in the Rangers’ Game 6 clincher against the Tigers, a 15-5 rout that was never in doubt.
But it capped a post-season perfomance for the ages.
Cruz, then 31 years old, got eight hits in the ALCS — six of them home runs, including a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning of Game 2, and a game-winning, three-run blast in Game 4 that also came in the 11th inning.
The Dominican native — his other two hits in the series were doubles — hit .364 and knocked in 13 runs, setting a record for homers and RBI in a playoff series. He also hit six homers throughout the 2010 postseason.
While Cruz easily won the 2011 ALCS MVP award, the Rangers lost to the Cardinals in the World Series, during which he cooled off a bit with two homers and a .200 average.
— Robert Dominguez
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls” and writer of the upcoming “El Salón: The Trials and Triumphs of Baseball’s Latino Hall of Famers.”
Photo source: Dinur — Under Creative Commons License