Cruz's heads-up play in field helps seal win

Cruz's heads-up play in field helps seal win

Cruz's heads-up play in field helps seal win
ARLINGTON -- After providing the offense with a spark on Monday, Nelson Cruz helped secure the Rangers' fourth straight win on defense.

With the Rangers leading, 4-1, in the eighth inning and a runner on first, Matt Harrison was on the verge of picking up his second win over the Mariners in as many starts when Brendan Ryan lifted a ball into shallow center field.

After Craig Gentry made an unsuccessful attempt at a diving catch, the ball trickled into right-center field, where Cruz picked it up on the warning track. Cruz, who homered for the third time in four games in the second inning, quickly relayed the ball to the cutoff man, second baseman Ian Kinsler.

"You can't leave your feet," manager Ron Washington said. "If you leave your feet, you've got to catch the ball. If not, you hold him to a single. You can't let them back in the game there."

In one fluid motion, Kinsler gathered the throw from Cruz in midair and fired it to catcher Mike Napoli. As Ryan rounded third base, Napoli prepared for a collision, blocking the plate with his left foot. Kinsler's throw was an accurate one as Napoli applied the tag on a sliding Ryan, who was denied a two-run, inside-the-park home run, never touching the plate.

"I was going to make the throw regardless, whether or not he was held up," Kinsler said. "[Napoli] put his foot on the plate and made a great block on the plate. If he didn't make that block, he probably would have been safe."

Instead of having the tying run come to the plate with the top of the Mariners' order due up, they were left with no men on base and one out in the eighth. Michael Saunders, who led off the inning with a single, scored on the play to trim the Rangers' lead to 4-2.

"I was trying to cut every base tight, but around second there I tried to get too much angle there and lost myself for about half a step," Ryan said. "I turned around third and tried to get another gear, but there was just nothing there. Kinsler is a spectacular second baseman."

After Harrison induced the final two of his 12 groundball outs to end the inning and Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 11th save, the Rangers had extended their winning streak to four while the Mariners had extended their losing streak to five.

"That was awesome," said Harrison, who improved to 6-3 after giving up two runs on seven hits over eight innings. "I didn't think they would have sent him right there. They could have had a guy on third base with no outs."

"The play was really made by Nelson Cruz, backing up the ball and hitting Kinsler with a strike," Washington said. "He could have been just standing there watching the play but he was backing up, he made the play and he made a strong throw."