MLB Playoffs 2011: Nelson Cruz Is X Factor for Texas Rangers

Austin PorterCorrespondent IIIOctober 11, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers runs the bases after hitting a walk off grand slam home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to win Game Two of the American League Championship Series 7-3 against the Detroit Tigers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 10, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

In case you missed it, Nelson Cruz has a special nickname for his bat.

The "Boomstick."

Appropriately named, considering few players boom the baseball farther than the Dominican slugger.

On Saturday night in Game 1 of the ALCS, Cruz hit a solo home run off of Justin Verlander in what became the game-winning run. 

On Monday night, Cruz became the first player in Major League history to hit a walk-off grand slam in a postseason game 

The oft-overlooked Cruz rarely gets the attention of fellow power hitters Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler. When the postseason comes around, however, opposing pitchers know all too well the damage Cruz can impose on any mistake they throw his way.

In 22 postseason games, Cruz has a whopping nine home runs and 17 RBI. Here are some of the names he has taken deep in the playoffs: Justin Verlander, David Price, Tim Lincecum and Rafael Soriano have all fallen victim to the "boomstick."

The clutch hitter Cruz had an unorthodox journey to everyday playing time. He was spurned by three major league clubs: the Mets, A's and the Brewers. He was sent to the Rangers with Carlos Lee in 2006 and trudged around in the minors until his breakout season in 2009. 

The scouting report says Cruz has a poor understanding of the strike zone and is prone to the off-speed pitch when trailing in the count.

Tell that to Detroit Tiger pitcher Ryan Perry, who gave up Cruz's walk-off homer on a 1-2 slider.

Also, do not discount the outfielder's defense. Cruz has a strong, accurate arm and played a crucial ricochet in the corner to perfection, keeping the game knotted at three in the top of the ninth inning. 

Ranger Manager Ron Washington stated that Cruz is capable of "carrying the team on his back." There is no question that when Cruz is hot, the Rangers possess the best offense in Major League Baseball.

And that, my friends, is the definition of an X factor.