Cruz takes the cake with birthday blast

Slugger launches two-run shot vs. Padres on 35th birthday

Cruz takes the cake with birthday blast

SAN DIEGO -- Nelson Cruz didn't want to wait for the cake, so the Mariners slugger sliced his own gift -- a two-run homer in the top of the ninth -- in Seattle's 7-0 victory over the Padres in Wednesday's Interleague series finale at Petco Park.

Cruz cranked his 20th home run of the season on his 35th birthday to close out the day's scoring.

"It's nice to get your own present, I guess," Cruz said with a smile.

The big man has become pretty adept at throwing his own party. He's hit .360 (9-for-25) with a double, triple, three home runs and nine RBIs in six games played on his birthday during his Major League career.

Cruz now leads Seattle with 20 home runs, 48 RBIs and a .307 batting average. He becomes the 18th Mariner with 20 homers before the All-Star break and the first since Raul Ibanez hit 24 in 2013.

Cruz said he didn't think he hit Wednesday's very well, but "it got a lot of backspin, I guess," as the ball just cleared the wall in left field for his second homer in the past 30 games.

Cruz was more impressed by the effort of his teammate, Robinson Cano, who broke out with a 4-for-5 day with a homer, double and three RBIs.

Cano's solo homer

"That's huge," said Cruz. "He's a big piece of the team. When he gets it going, the whole lineup looks impressive."

Cano has shown signs of emerging from his season-long funk at various times, but he sounded hopeful that his season-best game in hits and RBIs might kick-start a second-half climb. He's now batting .247 with five homers and 27 RBIs.

"I've been hitting the ball hard, so I just said, 'You know what? Just go up there and swing,'" Cano said. "It's nice to know I can do it. It's never too late. Hopefully it can continue from now on and I'll keep swinging the same way."

Cano has a long history of success against Padres starter James Shields and now owns a .411 batting average (37-for-90) with 16 RBIs, five home runs, two triples and nine doubles against the standout right-hander.

But he's looking now to carry this game into a four-game Oakland series and get things rolling.

"I'm always positive," Cano said. "You win two games and beat a team like San Diego -- they might not be playing the way they're supposed to right now, but you look around, they've got pitching, bullpen and offense. That's the kind of team you want to go out and play. We have to continue with the same energy level and keep going out there fighting."

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.