Nelson Cruz, 41, went just 4 for 20 in his first five games this season (for a .200/.273/.350 line) with one home run, two walks, and four strikeouts in 22 plate appearances, but the 18-year veteran, who signed with Washington’s Nationals this winter, taking a 1-year/$15M deal to be the DH in D.C., connected for his 450th career home run in the series finale with the New York Mets on Sunday, and followed that 2 for 4 game (in which he hit a two-run single as well) with a 1 for 3 night on Monday in the opener with Atlanta.
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after the club’s first win of the series in the fourth of four with NY, that he wasn’t too concerned about Cruz getting the bat going given the years of evidence that the Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic-born slugger knows how to hit.
“He’s a professional hitter,” Martinez said. “He knows how to drive in runs. It was beautiful.
“Hits the home run, he stays inside the ball with two strikes, hits the ball up the middle, two big runs for us there.”
Cruz was penciled in as the DH and No. 3 hitter in the Nationals’ lineup on Tuesday as well, but about 20 minutes before the scheduled start time for the 2nd of 3 with 2022’s World Series champs in Atlanta, he was scratched without explanation until after what ended up a 16-4 loss to the Braves in Truist Park.
“He has right groin tightness today, so I just wanted him to get treatment and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Martinez explained in his post game press conference.
Cruz was in the lineup, however, and he did take part in batting practice before the game, so did something happen in BP, or do they know when he tweaked something?
“Yeah, he said he just couldn’t — he tried to get loose before the game, and he couldn’t get loose, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Missing Cruz for any significant amount of time would be a huge blow for the Nationals, who signed the vet to hit in the middle of the order and provide some protection for the club’s 23-year-old slugger, Juan Soto.
Cruz is back in the lineup for this afternoon’s 12:20 PM ET series finale with the Braves, though they apparently let him test it out before making an official decision on his inclusion.