SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz entered Saturday's play leading the American League in all three Triple Crown categories -- home runs, batting average and tied for tops in RBIs -- but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon believes the big right fielder hasn't even hit his hottest streak yet.
While everyone knew Cruz would bring some needed right-handed power after leading the Majors in home runs with 40 last year for the Orioles, there were questions about how he'd fare with a full season playing his home games in Safeco Field. Yet he finished the first 35 games of the season with 15 home runs, 30 RBIs and a .358 batting average that is well above his career mark of .268 entering this season.
"I knew he was this type of hitter," McClendon said. "I've seen him over the years, so nothing he's doing is surprising me. I knew he was very capable of doing what he's doing.
"To be truthful, I don't think he's gotten hot to the point where it's just ridiculous. He's grinding at-bats out and getting his hits, he's going the other way. If they make a mistake, he'll hit it out. But I've seen him to the point where he'll get hot and hit good pitches out of the ballpark, and that hasn't happened yet."
Cruz slugged 10 home runs in April when he was the AL Player of the Month. He had five more halfway through May, though only one in nine games, going into Saturday. But Cruz took an eight-game hitting streak into Saturday's game, hitting .467 (14-for-30) during that stretch, including the walk-off single in Friday's 2-1 win over Boston.
The Mariners were just 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position over three games prior to Cruz's clutch delivery.
"Baseball is crazy," Cruz said. "You go through slumps and then your swing can click and you get everything done. The good thing is I got it done in that situation. I want to be there in that spot."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.