Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cruz Hits First Homer at Busch Stadium

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cruz Hits First Homer at Busch Stadium

Article excerpt

Tony Cruz wasn't exactly sure what to do on Saturday night.

He gave the Cardinals an early momentum boost with a three-run home run in the second inning against the Reds. The home run was the third of his big-league career but his first in front of the home fans at Busch Stadium. So after he went through the Cardinals' dugout receiving line and accepted the congratulations of his teammates, he went to start putting on his catching gear.

But the crowd kept cheering, and manager Mike Matheny was telling him to go up on the dugout steps for his first career curtain call.

"It was an amazing feeling," Cruz said after the Cardinals' 8-4 win over the Reds that pushed them to the brink of securing a postseason spot for the fourth consecutive season and fifth time in six years. "Mike gave me the OK and I went out. The response was great. That was neat."

That home run, as key as it was, wasn't even the biggest hit Cruz had last week. On Thursday, he came up in the 13th inning and drove in the game-winning run with a single to beat the Brewers, providing some badly needed breathing room in the Central Division race as the Cardinals try to hold off the Pirates. In consecutive at-bats, Cruz drove in four runs. In his previous 126 at-bats this season, he had 13 RBIs.

And, if you open the window a little wider, you find that the home run gave Cruz three hits in his five previous at-bats. The problem, of course, is that as Yadier Molina's backup, starts are few and far between for Cruz and those five at-bats were spread over 11 games for the Cardinals. And Cruz probably wouldn't have gotten the chance on Saturday if some sort of illness hadn't knocked Matt Adams out of the lineup. Molina moved to first and Matheny, who wanted to reward Cruz for the game-winning hit on Thursday, put Cruz in the lineup. Still, the work Cruz has put in to get ready paid off.

"I've been doing a lot of work in the cage with (hitting coach John) Mabry and (assistant hitting coach David Bell)," Cruz said. "We made some adjustments and it's been working out.

"You've just got to come in and do your work every day, whether it's soft toss, hitting off a tee or hitting off the machine. …

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