ARLINGTON -- Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate in the fourth inning with an ugly .063 batting average in 16 playoff at-bats so far in the postseason, but he busted out in a big way, hitting a 2-0 pitch from Tigers ace Justin Verlander over the left-field wall in a 3-2 Game 1 American League Championship Series win for the Rangers on Saturday night.
"It was a sinker," Cruz said. "All my first at-bat, all the fastballs I saw were sinkers, so I saw the replay, and [Tigers catcher Alex] Avila set up outside, but the pitch was in to me."
Cruz hitting big home runs for the Rangers in the playoffs is hardly a new thing, as the home run marks his seventh, breaking Juan Gonzalez's franchise record for playoff home runs.
Cruz has a knack for hitting home runs in the ALCS, too, as he's hit three in his last four games.
Not bad for a player who seemed to be heading toward the bench. Since coming back from a left hamstring strain on Sept. 14, Cruz entered Saturday batting .158 between playoff and regular-season games. In Friday's workout session, manager Ron Washington gave Cruz what amounted to a vote of confidence, saying that his outfielder was swinging the bat well and a victim of bad luck.
"He didn't have the consistency that I know he would like to have, but every now and then, he would sting one, but he didn't catch any breaks," Washington said on Friday. "He stung a couple balls pretty good, he just didn't get anything for it. Just got to keep getting his at-bats. His teammates will keep picking him up, and pretty soon, he'll pick up his teammates."
Cruz felt he was swinging the bat well, too.
"Definitely the last few games I feel like I swing the bat well," Cruz said. "I haven't been lucky enough to get the hits where there is nobody. Today, I hit it where there was nobody but good guys."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.