Cruz on verge of 4th straight 40-homer year

Mariners slugger has 6 blasts in last 9 games

Cruz on verge of 4th straight 40-homer year

ANAHEIM -- It seemed inconceivable, 10 days ago, that Nelson Cruz could add to his streak of three straight years with 40 home runs.

The Mariners designated hitter was sitting at 33 home runs on Sept. 19, with less than two weeks remaining in the season, and he'd hit just two in his previous 26 games. At age 37, the string appeared done.

But Cruz and his "boomstick" had other ideas and on Friday night at Angel Stadium, he slugged his sixth home run in the past nine games in a 6-5 loss to the Angels to put him at 39 on the year with two days to go.

"It looks like he's up there just trying to hit homers, but that's not his focus," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He told me a week ago, 'I'm not worried about that. I'm just going to have good at-bats.' He's got the kind of swing and is so strong that if he does have good at-bats and squares it up, good things are going to happen.'

Four straight years of 40 homers would be a pretty significant achievement. The last Major Leaguer to do it was Ryan Howard of the Phillies from 2006-09. Only 13 players in MLB history have achieved the feat and if Cruz gets there this year, he'll trail only the prestigious group of Babe Ruth (7), Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa (6 each) and Adam Dunn, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Duke Snider and Ralph Kiner (5 each).

In addition to Howard, Cruz would be tied at four years of 40 with Albert Pujols, Jim Thome, Mark McGwire, Harmon Killebrew and Ernie Banks.

In other words, the big man will put his name among the greatest sluggers in history if he can knock one more out of the park this weekend.

"It's a testament to him and the year he's had and the career he's had," Servais said. "He just keeps grinding away. He knows they come in bunches and he's in a good spot right now. Hopefully he can get a couple more before the season is over."

Cruz has also hiked his career high in RBIs to 118, which is five ahead of Yankees rookie Aaron Judge for the most in the American League.

The only previous Mariners to win an AL RBI title are Griffey (1997), Edgar Martinez (2000) and Bret Boone ('01). Again, Cruz is finishing strong, with eight RBIs now in his last nine games.

Cruz's 39th blast of the year came in the fourth inning off lefty Tyler Skaggs, a 413-foot shot to left field on a 91-mph fastball.

Of Cruz's 39 homers, 38 have come while he's been the designated hitter, which breaks Martinez's DH club record of 37 in 2000.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.