Ray cruise to victory behind Cruz

by Gary Shelton on August 7, 2021

in general

Kiermaier reached base four times./TIM WIRT

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Oh, so that's why the Tampa Bay Rays traded for Nelson Cruz.

The Boomstick of Cruz, a longtime slugger, hadn't shown up for the Rays before Friday night's game against the hapless Orioles. Frankly, it was getting to the point that the Rays might ask the Twins for change from the transaction.

That ended in the Rays' 10-6 victory over Baltimore Friday night. Cruz drove in five runs to lead the Rays win, hitting a three-run homer to tie the game in the sixth and a two-run double to give the Rays the lead in the eighth.

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“That’s why I was brought here," Cruz said. "It definitely feels good to drive those runs in in that situation." 

Cruz was hitting .171 as a Ray before the homer (counting his first three at-bats Friday night) with 13 strikeouts. Granted, it helped that he was hitting against Baltimore, which has the highest ERA in the major leagues, but it still had to be comforting that Cruz finally showed up.

“It sure is (why the team traded for him)," said teammate Kevin Kiermaier. "I think we were all thinking that as he was rounding the bases. That was why you get an impact bat like that.  That’s what he’s doing his whole career and that’s what we acquired him to do. Boy, the timing on that was absolutely perfect. They were the better team the first half of the game until Nelly Cruz was being himself there. Bless his heart and bless his bat, because we love seeing that."

Said manager Kevin Cash: "We’re very confident he’s going to do his thing. We needed him tonight and he picked us up in a big way. I don’t think Nelson has really felt right since he fouled a ball off his foot. He’s been an RBI machine for umpteen years. Now he gets to do it for us for a little while."

The Rays were sluggish early, and starter Ryan Yarbrough had a tough night. He gave up nine hits and five earned runs in the first five innings. The Rays' bullpen held Baltimore to a single run. Reliever Drew Rasmussen was especially effective, going 2 1/3 innings and throwing 53 pitches.

"I can’t sit here and say (Yarbrough) is getting knocked all over the yard, but they’re finding a way to find holes for sure. There are some hard hit balls in there. A lot of hits are coming with guys on base. We have confidence in Yarbs. He’ll sort it out. He needs to because he’s a big part of what we’re doing."

The Rays stretched their lead in the AL East to 2 1/2 games with the win.

Tampa Bay will play the Orioles again tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Camden Yards. Shane McClanahan will pitch for the Rays against Spenser Watkins.

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