McAdam: History made in Rangers' walk-off win

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McAdam: History made in Rangers' walk-off win

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Bobby Thomson didn't do it. Neither did Kirk Gibson or Bill Mazeroski. Or Carlton Fisk or Joe Carter or Chris Chambliss, for that matter.

Sure, each of those players hit historic, postseason homers for their teams. Some -- including Carter and Mazeroski -- actually won championships.

But let the record show that none ever did what Nelson Cruz did on Monday night at The Ballpark in Arlington.

With the score tied in the bottom of the 11th inning, Cruz unloaded on a pitch from Ryan Perry, drilling it deep into the seats in left, winning ALCS Game 2 for the Texas Rangers, 7-3.

Walkoff homers in the postseason are one thing. But Cruz became the first player in baseball history to wallop a postseason walkoff grand slam.

That covers more than a hundred World Series, 80 League Championship Series and all the Division Series since the new format was introduced in 1995.

Hundreds of games. An untold number of chances. And no one did what Cruz did.

(Robin Ventura came awfully close, of course, hitting a bases-loaded homer to win Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS for the New York Mets over the Atlanta Braves. But in a bizarre twist, Ventura never found his way to home plate amid the mad on-field celebrations and hours later, was credited with just a single. That kept Ventura out of the record books and ruined plenty of gamblers who had action on the over-under or margin of victory).

Cruz might seem to be an unlikely hero in a lineup that features Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre and Michael Young.

But in the last two Octobers, Cruz has demonstrated a flair for the dramatic. In 22 postseason games, Cruz, who belted a solo homer in the seventh to tie the game at 3-3, has nine homers. In all of baseball history, only Carlos Beltran has homered more often (11) in his first 22 postseason games.

Among players with at least 75 postseason career at-bats, Cruz's 9.11 at-bat-to-homer ratio is the fourth best all-time, behind only Beltran (7.45), Babe Ruth (8.60) and Troy Glaus (8.67).

Cruz himself was told of the historic nature of his accomplishment and was surprised that baseball had never had a postseason walkoff grand slam.

"All those years, you would think it had been done before," Cruz said. "It's special."

And never mind the history-making nature of the grand slam. After the ninth inning, Cruz was happy to still be in the game.

Detroit closer Jose Valverde tried to get a fastball in on Cruz in that inning and ended up drilling him in the right wrist. Cruz went down in great pain, writhing on the ground.

"He was scared," confirmed manager Ron Washington, who rushed out to check on his fallen slugger, "because he got it in the wrist. It was black and blue . . . But after the doctor checked him and told him he was fine, then Nelson got up."

"When I got hit, I thought it was worse," said Cruz.

Two innings later, his hand sore but manageable, Cruz came to the plate with the bases loaded.

A bit over-eager, he drove a pitch from Perry deep to left, but foul. Determined to stay back a little, Cruz got another chance and drove a pitch off the foul pole.

The minute it left the bat, a Texas victory seemed assured -- as long as the ball stayed in fair territory. With the bases loaded and no out, a deep enough flyout would have scored Young from third base.

But Cruz left no room for argument, clearing the bases, and giving him homers in each of his last three LCS games. He also homered in Saturday's Game 1 and, dating back to last October, hit one in Game 6 against the New York Yankees.

And unlike Ventura -- whose name is now strangely linked to Rangers' lore a second time, following his ill-advised charge of Nolan Ryan's mound 1993 and the resulting noogie-pounding he took from the then 46-year-old pitcher -- Cruz made sure to touch 'em all as he rounded the bases.

Anybody, of course, can hit a postseason walkoff single. But nobody had ever done what Nelson Cruz did Monday.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.