In the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, Cruz belted six homers and drove in 13 runs. Those six home runs were enough to surpass the great Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in a playoff series.
Jackson hit his five round-trippers against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. It was a performance that led to Jackson's moniker, Mr. October.
In fact, it was 34 years ago today that Jackson did the majority of his damage in a single game against the Dodgers by hitting three big blasts on the game's biggest stage.
Jackson didn't just hit three homers in a game. He hit three homers against three different pitchers. Even more amazing is that he hit each of those home runs on the first pitch of the at-bat.
Though Cruz has surpassed Jackson with his six home runs, they all came in the ALCS and not in the World Series. Clearly that doesn't take away from the accomplishment, and it doesn't mean that the performance wasn't as impressive as Jackson's. It just means that Jackson was able to do it when it counted most.
Cruz is actually getting his second shot at taking the crown from Reggie. In the 2010 playoffs, the Rangers' outfielder was great in the divisional series and in the league championship, but faltered in the World Series when his team needed him most.
Cruz hit .375 in the fist two rounds of the playoffs last year. Of his 15 hits in those two rounds, five were home runs and five were doubles. He also walked six times and drove in eight runs.
Are those legendary numbers? No, but combined with a World Series featuring similar numbers and a championship ring to boot, Cruz would have had one of the greatest postseasons in history.
The problem is that Cruz totally tanked it in the World Series against the Giants, batting just .200. Sure, the Giants featured an amazing pitching staff, but in the game of baseball the greats have always stepped up in the toughest of situations when it was least expected.
Kirk Gibson made history with a broken limb while facing one of the game's all-time greatest hurlers in Dennis Eckersley. Luis Gonzalez got the game-winning hit against the mighty Yankees and baseball's greatest closer, Mariano Rivera.
Cruz will have to do it against a St. Louis team that seems destined to win it all after their improbable run in the season's final month to sneak past the Braves into the playoffs.
Cruz definitely has the ability to take over the series. But the Cardinals won't pitch to the outfielder like the Tigers did.
The Tigers pitching staff is full of power pitchers like Justin Verlander, who were set on pitching Cruz inside and up in the strike zone with their strongest fastballs. That's a perfect example of pitching into a hitter's wheelhouse.
Look for Tony La Russa to make sure his pitchers force Cruz to reach out of his comfort zone. If Cruz is going to be the next Mr. October, he's going to have to earn it.
For Cruz to carry the Mr. Baseball tag for longer than a month, the Rangers will have to win their first ever World Series crown. Cruz would also have to be the reason, or at least a really big reason, for Texas winning. Of course, six more trots around the bags and a multi-homer game for Cruz would help.
The biggest thing working against Cruz is that he doesn't play in New York. For the most part, if you want a really cool nickname in baseball, you pretty much have to be a Yankee. Although, a Ranger with a big gun in the wild west isn't a bad place to start.
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