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.

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.

Scott's taste of big-league life with Red Sox has him hungering for more

Scott's taste of big-league life with Red Sox has him hungering for more

CHESNUT HILL -- The Red Sox Rookie Development Program is designed to help young players prepare for what playing at the major-league level is like,. That can be valuable for a prospect like Rafael Devers, who hasn’t even made it to Double-A.

But of the eight-man cast at the workout this year, there’s one guy who actually has major-league experience.

Robby Scott joined the Red Sox as a September call-up last season and turned some heads, holding opponents scoreless over six innings of work.

Now the lefty is back working with younger guys to prepare himself for spring training -- something he’s itching to get started.

“It’s one thing that we always talk about,” the left-handed reliever told CSNNE.com “It’s a tough road to get there, but it’s an even tougher and harder road to stay there. And having that taste in September last year was incredible to be a part of it.”

That taste Scott had last fall has only made the desire to rejoin Boston greater.

“Yeah, because now you know what it’s like,” Scott said CSNNE.com. “You see it and you’re there and you’re a part of it. And it’s like, ‘Man, I wanna be there.’ You’re a little bit more hungry.”

And his hunger to pitch with the Red Sox only becomes greater at an event like this where he’s the only one with MLB time.

“They ask on a consistent basis,” Scott started, “ ‘What’s it like?’ ‘What was it like getting there the first day?’ ‘How did the guys react?’ ‘What was it like dealing with the media?’

“That’s what this program is here for, just to kind of gives these guys a little taste of what it is like and get familiar with the circumstances.

While the experience and constant discussion invites players to try to do more in the offseason or change their routine, the 27-year-old has stayed the course, trusting what’s gotten him there.

“The offseason training stays the same, nothing really changes on that side of things,” Scott said. “Nothing changes. Go about my business the way I have the last six, seven years.”