Cruz's homer caps launch party
Blalock, Young also go deep as Rangers drop Mariners
SEATTLE -- Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz put a big exclamation point on an awfully big day, both for the Rangers and for himself.With Texas already holding a two-run lead in the eighth inning of Friday's game against the Mariners, Cruz launched a two-run bomb into the upper deck in left field, which proved to be the difference in a 6-4 win for the Rangers in front of 34,874 at Safeco Field. Cruz added a single to finish 2-for-3. And he was selected to replace the Angels' Torii Hunter on the American League All Star Game roster earlier in the day. Not a bad way to start the weekend. Cruz did have one qualm, though: the estimated distance of his home run. "That was the best ball I hit this year," Cruz said. "I crushed it, and they said it was 413. I was like, 'What?' " He'll be happy to know it was officially listed at 428 feet, his 21st round-tripper this season, tied for second in the AL. The Rangers needed the tape measure fairly often in this one. Hank Blalock got Texas on the board with a homer in the second inning, and Michael Young changed the game with a three-run homer in the third that put the Rangers ahead for good. "Looking for something I could get in the air and kind of drive a little bit," Young said. "At first and second with one out, anything I roll over right there is going to be bad news. It's probably going to be a double-play ball, so I'm looking for something I cannot necessarily hit in the air, but hit hard and hopefully find a gap." Omar Vizquel and Ian Kinsler worked back-to-back walks off starter Brendan Morrow to set up Young's crucial homer, something Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said is especially deadly against a power-hitting team. "With a club like this, that has power up and down the lineup, you just don't feel safe if you are walking guys out there," Wakamatsu said. "You can get hurt by that, obviously." Rangers starter Scott Feldman hurt the Mariners just as much. After allowing a pair of RBI doubles to Russell Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez in the first inning to dig a 2-0 deficit, Feldman settled down and held Seattle scoreless into the seventh inning. He scattered seven hits while running his record to 8-2. "You never want to give up two, but I just tried to tell myself if I can keep it there, I know, more times than not, we're going to put up some runs," Feldman said. "I just really focused on keeping them right there, forgetting about that first inning and just pitching my game." Feldman gave way to the left-handed Derek Holland with two outs in the seventh, Ronny Cedeno on first and Ichiro Suzuki at the plate. Ichiro ripped a line drive off Young's glove at third, and the ball trickled away to allow Ichiro to scoot into second base with a double. Cedeno moved to third. But Holland struck out Branyan to wiggle off the hook. Seattle's attempt at a comeback against the Texas bullpen gained steam in the eighth. Jose Lopez singled and Ken Griffey Jr. doubled to start the frame, and both eventually came around to score to cut the Texas lead to two, at 6-4. But Rangers reliever Jason Jennings got pinch-hitter Chris Shelton, representing the tying run, to ground out to shortstop to end the threat. Frank Francisco worked a scoreless ninth for his 15th save of the season. And thanks to the late insurance from Cruz, Seattle's two eighth-inning runs were harmless. After Marlon Byrd singled off Seattle reliever Shawn Kelley with two outs, Cruz sucked the life out of Safeco with his no-doubt-about-it moon shot. "Whatever we need to get some runs and support Feldman," Cruz said. "He threw really well." Blalock's blast was actually the deepest, a 435-foot rocket that is the first baseman's 18th of the year. It came on an 0-1 pitch, Young's came on the first pitch and the Rangers seemed to be set on swinging early in the count against Morrow (0-4) all game. Morrow had a six-pitch first inning, but eventually fell into trouble as the Rangers jumped on his fastball and made him pay for those untimely bases on balls. Early-count cuts weren't necessarily the plan, Young said. But on this night, it worked. "I think it was kind of a case-by-case basis, depending on the situation of the game," Young said. "We try to make sure that regardless of who we're facing, our approach is dictated on the situation of the game and what the scoreboard kind of tells us to do. Each guy had his own game plan, and fortunately, it worked out." The win moves the Rangers 4 1/2 games ahead of Seattle, and they remain a half-game ahead of the Angels atop the AL West standings.
Christian Caple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.