Cruz continues torrid power streak in opener

Outfielder crushes league-leading 17th home run to help beat Toronto

Cruz continues torrid power streak in opener

TORONTO -- The Mariners got another homer from Nelson Cruz on Friday and this time enough offense to go along with it to add up to a series-opening win as Seattle topped the Blue Jays, 4-3, at Rogers Centre.

Of Cruz's Major League-leading 17 home runs, 13 have been solo, including his leadoff line drive to center field in the sixth off Toronto's starter Marco Estrada. At the time, the blast gave Seattle a 4-1 lead, but it held up as the winning run after closer Fernando Rodney allowed a two-run homer in the ninth.

Seattle's new slugger is doing more than just hitting long balls, however. He led off the second with a double, taking second on a ball that rolled slowly in short right-center in the thick Rogers Centre artificial turf. He then hustled into third on a two-out fly ball to center by Logan Morrison, arriving in a cloud of dirt to just beat the throw from Kevin Pillar.

Though Cruz didn't score in that inning, those are the type of plays that make others appreciate his oft-overlooked athleticism and hustle.

"He's a baseball player in every sense of the word," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "He shows up ready to beat the other team every day. And right now, he's using the entire field to hit. He had the smarts to know that turf is slow to get the double and then tag up and go to third. During the course of the year, those are going to be big things because baserunning wins ballgames for you."

The home runs don't hurt either and Cruz has been on a tear. After Bryce Harper of the Nationals hit his 16th homer earlier in the day, Cruz regained the MLB lead with a laser shot to dead center that was tracked at 416 feet by Statcast™.

"The ball carries pretty well here, but I was surprised it went out," Cruz acknowledged. "It was a low line drive."

Cruz increased his AL-leading batting average to .354 with his 2-for-4 day, though Kendrys Morales of the Royals passed him for the league RBI lead. That's OK with Cruz, though, as he's more concerned with helping get his team wins.

And on this day, a two-run triple by Morrison and an RBI double by Mike Zunino in the fourth aided considerably in that regard.

"That was huge," Cruz said "We need help from everybody, so that was nice to see the whole lineup doing the job."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.