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Nelson Cruz uses bare hands to break slump, thump Angels

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Tired of slumping, Nelson Cruz decided it was time to take off the gloves and fight back another way.

Desperate times call for unusual thinking, and that's exactly the route Cruz took to help get himself righted for the Texas Rangers' series opener with the Los Angeles Angels.

Cruz entered play on Friday mired in a 4-for-27 funk, which prompted manager Ron Washington to drop him to seventh in the order for the first time this season. Washington hoped the move would help Cruz to relax and play looser. Though not a fan of the switch, Cruz took it in stride, and also used it as provocation to try something different in the batting cage.

And no, he didn't do something common like tweak his stance or change his leg kick. He didn't adjust his hand placement or start wiggling the bat menacingly. He removed his batting gloves.

That's it.

"Staying in the lineup is the only thing that matters," Cruz said. "I don't like the (demotion) but the only thing that I care about is to be in the lineup. I went to the (batting) cage (before the game) and I went without the batting gloves and felt good."

If it felt good in BP, one can only imagine how great it felt a few hours later. Sans gloves, Cruz busted his slump with four hits, two monster home runs and six runs batted in, helping his Rangers establish some distance from their division rivals with an 11-7 victory.

"I'm not going to take credit for that," Washington said. "Maybe if I left him where he was, he would have done the same thing. But it's nice to see him bust out because he's a guy we need."

Hold on, hold on.

Before Cruz and Washington get carried away and take too much credit for the breakout game, I'd like to contest that it really had nothing to do with batting gloves or a change in the batting order. It's my belief that it actually boils down to a simple calender flip from Thursday to Friday. {YSP:MORE}

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Dating back to July 1 (his 31st birthday), this is third different Friday that Cruz has driven in at least six runs.

• July 1: Cruz went 2 for 5 with a homer, triple and six RBIs in a 15-5 win over the Florida Marlins.

• July 22: Cruz went 4 for 4 with a home run, double and eight RBIs in a 12-2 thumping of the Toronto Blue Jays.

• Last night: Cruz, un-gloved, went 4 for 5 with two homers and six more RBIs.

That's a month worth of RBIs for even the most elite sluggers. Cruz did it all in three games.

T.G.I.F. Or: Take (off the) Gloves, It's Friday.

All right, that's pretty fluky, and really has little bearing on this story or Cruz's overall productivity, but I noticed the pattern developing over the weeks and had to squeeze it in somewhere.

Bottom line, though, this really was a big game for Cruz and a huge win for Texas. Now we'll see if Cruz continues on without the gloves in a tough matchup against Ervin Santana on Saturday, and we'll see if the Rangers can take further command of the American League's tightest race.

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