Nelson Cruz Playoffs Experience to Benefit Baltimore Orioles


Jul 5, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Nelson Cruz (23) smiles after being tagged out at third base trying for a triple during the eighth inning in game two against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It is October and the Baltimore Orioles are still playing baseball!  Let that sink in for a moment and just revel in the feeling.

As Orioles fans, we don’t have a lot of experience in October baseball, at least not in recent memory. Beyond that, the O’s players don’t have a lot of experience in playing October baseball.

However, one Oriole with an extensive resume in playoffs competition is AL and MLB home run champion Nelson Cruz. He has a total of 34 games played and 137 plate appearances, with 14 home runs and a .278 batting average. Of course, all of these games were as a member of the Texas Rangers from 2010-2012.

Let’s start by looking back at his most recent playoff game and experience, yes, in 2012 against the Baltimore Orioles!  He was 2-for-4 that day with a pair of singles that did not factor into the scoring as the Rangers were beaten by the O’s.

2010 and 2011 were seasons that the Rangers made it to the World Series, losing to the Giants and the Cardinals. Combined over those series, Cruz hit just .200 with three home runs in 12 games and 50 plate appearances.

Cruz has had his best success in his two ALCS experiences – first against the Yankees in 2010, and then against the Tigers in 2011.

Against the Yankees in 2010 he was 7-for-20 with three doubles and two home runs. In the sixth and clinching game, after Vladimir Guerrero broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning with a two-run double that chased Phil Hughes, Cruz broke the game open with a two-run shot off David Robertson. The Rangers would win by a final of 6-1.

But the best postseason series for Cruz was in 2011 against the Detroit Tigers where he was the series MVP.

Cruz was 8-for-22, with all eight hits being of the extra-base variety: two doubles and six home runs that accounted for a total of 13 RBIs. In the second game of the series, after hitting a game-tying seventh inning solo home run off Max Scherzer, Cruz hit a walk-off grand slam off Ryan Perry in the bottom of the 11th inning to win the game. In the fourth game of the series, in Detroit, Cruz liked hitting 11th-inning homers so much that he did it again – with two on base.

Given the 13th-ranked bullpen of the current Detroit Tigers, it would be great to see Nelson Cruz reprise his late-innings power against them.

In ALDS play, Cruz has a bit more mixed bag of results, both times against the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2010, he was 8-for-20 with three home runs – all solo shots. But the next year he struggled to only have one hit in 15 at-bats.

All in all, it is quite a wealth of clutch-hitting experience that will hopefully serve him well, and by extension to inform his teammates about how to have success on the big stage.

Here is a summary of Nelson Cruz’ postseason statistics …