Mariners Insider Blog

Watchpoints: Cruz looking to end month-long homerless drought

Nelson Cruz is looking to snap a month-long drought without a homer.
Nelson Cruz is looking to snap a month-long drought without a homer. AP

It’s now one month and counting since Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz went deep.

And he isn’t sure what’s wrong.

"I have no reason why," Cruz said recently. "It’s just part of the game. I don't remember the last time I was in this situation, but I keep doing my routines and I trust what I do. Sooner or later, they're going to come."

His resume supports that belief.

Cruz hit at least 40 homers in each of the last three years, and he was on a similar pace this season when he got No. 14 on June 4 against ex-Mariner Erasmo Ramirez in a 7-1 victory over Tampa Bay.

Since then…nothing.

"All of the big sluggers," manager Scott Servais said, "they come in bunches. He could go out and hit five or six in a week. It does typically happen that way with those guys.

"He’s been chasing some pitches that he typically doesn’t. There haven’t been a whole lot of 2-0 and 3-1 counts where you put the pitcher on edge and where they have to be just so fine."

Cruz is still nursing a sore right knee that kept him out of the starting lineup for the last two days, but he got an at-bat Monday as a pinch-hitter in a 3-1 loss to Kansas City and figures to return Tuesday to his normal duty.

The last time that Cruz went more than a month between homers was 2011 when he had a 31-day drought late in the season, but he missed more than two weeks in that stretch because of a strained left hamstring.

He had droughts of 41 days and 33 days in 2010 but, again, he missed 24 days on each occasion because of a strained left hamstring.

In short, Cruz has never gone this long between homers without a stay on the disabled list — although, as noted above, he’s not been completely healthy in his current drought.

Even before banging up his knee last Saturday on a slide at second base, he spent much of this season nursing a strained right calf muscle.

"I think my job is to drive in runs," Cruz said. "If I don't hit homers and I’m driving in runs, I’m happy with that."

Despite his homerless stretch, and his injuries, Cruz has 59 RBIs, which ranks fourth in the American League.

Other watchpoints:

***It’s an early start Tuesday for Independence Day: 3:40 p.m. The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.

***It’s a marquee pitching matchup: Felix Hernandez (3-2 with a 4.66 ERA) vs. Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy (4-4, 3.54).

***Duffy was activated from the disabled list prior to the game after missing 36 days because of a strained left oblique muscle. He gave up three runs over 7 1/3 innings in two rehab starts for Triple-A Omaha.

***Hernandez is 5-5 with a 2.76 ERA in 13 career starts against the Royals. He made one start against them last season and pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings in a 1-0 victory at Safeco Field.

***Duffy is 0-1 in six career games against the Mariners but has a 2.01 ERA. That one loss came in 2014 at Safeco Field, where he has a 1.46 ERA in four games.

***Alcides Escobar is 7-for-19 in his career against Hernandez, while Eric Hosmer is 5-for-15. But Alex Gordon is just 4-for-25, while Salvy Perez is 4-for-14, and Mike Moustakas is 3-for-13. Brandon Moss, who faced Hernandez a lot while playing for Oakland, is 10-for-39.

***Robinson Cano is 6-for-14 in his career against Duffy, and Kyle Seager is 4-for-11. But Cruz and Danny Valencia are each just 1-for-10.

***Ben Gamel is hitless in his last 12 at-bats but now has enough plate appearances to qualify straight up among the batting leaders. His .330 average tops the American League.

***The last rookie to be leading the American League in batting at the All-Star break was a guy named Mike Trout, who was batting .341 in 2012 for the Los Angeles Angels.

***Jean Segura is batting .332 but is still 14 plate appearances short of qualification. (The standard is 3.1 plate appearances times the number of games played by the club. That would be 260.4 for any Mariner through Friday).

***This is the fourth time the Mariners and Royals have played on Independence Day. All three previous games were at Kansas City. The Mariners lost 5-3 in 1980, but won 6-0 in 2005 and 4-0 in 2007.

***The Mariners’ rotation has nine quality starts in the last 10 games. The starting pitcher went at least six innings in all 10 games and seven or more innings in five of the 10 games.

TIME CAPSULE

It was 26 years ago Tuesday — July 4, 1991 — that Jay Buhner had the first multiple-homer game of his career in a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox at the Kingdome.

Both homers came against Greg Hibbard, who would conclude his career in 1994 with the Mariners. Buhner had 22 two-homer games in his career.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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