Mariners' Cruz looks to extend purge surge vs. A's

SEATTLE -- There was Wonderboy, the bat Roy Hobbs used in the movie "The Natural."

And then there is Nelson Cruz's Boomstick.

The Seattle Mariners' designated hitter will try to extend his streak of home runs in consecutive games against Oakland to four when the teams conclude their three-game series Wednesday at Safeco Field.

Cruz has homered in each of the first two games of the series, a 6-5 Mariners win on Monday and a 9-6 Oakland victory on Tuesday, as well as an 11-1 Seattle victory on April 23 in Oakland.

"I could look up the numbers, but he's had a pretty good career against us," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "I know we're not the only team he terrorizes."

Cruz has reached base in 23 consecutive games against Oakland dating back to April 9, 2016, and he has a hit in 14 straight games vs. the A's. In those 23 games, Cruz is batting .435 (37-for-85) with 16 runs, six doubles, eight homers and 22 RBI.

"You could throw him three good pitches and then make one mistake and he'll drive it somewhere," Melvin said.

The Boomstick nickname became common after an MLB 2K10 video game promotion, and it stuck.

Cruz's Twitter handle is NCBoomstick23 and he started the Boomstick23 Foundation to support education.

A four-time All-Star, Cruz is one of three players with 20 or more homers in each of the past eight seasons.

Even at age 36, the native of the Dominican Republic is showing few signs of slowing. He leads the American League with 34 RBI and is among the top 10 in the AL in batting average (.326) and home runs (10).

Cruz hit a two-run homer to straightway center field on Monday in the series opener against Sean Manaea, then homered to right-center field in the first inning Tuesday against Andrew Triggs. It was the first earned run Triggs allowed on the road this season.

"That's a good sign, when he gets a lot of hits to the opposite field," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He's got so much power, he can hit it any place out of the ballpark. ... Cruzy's a pro. He can make adjustments."

The task of stopping Cruz on Wednesday will be up to Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn (1-2, 2.74 ERA), who is 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA in three career starts against the Mariners. Hahn might use the element of surprise, as he hasn't faced Seattle in more than two years.

As for dealing with Cruz?

"He's been one of the best hitters in the game for a while now," Hahn said. "You've got to be smart. But you can't shy away from your strengths, you've got to go after him."

Seattle's Wednesday starter, right-hander Christian Bergman (0-1, 4.15), will be making his first career appearance against the A's.

"I think that gives me an advantage," Bergman said. "These days with all the (scouting) things, there's a little less than before. It's no secret anymore. You can watch on video, but until you see it live, it's a little different."

A's second baseman Jed Lowrie agreed that it is never quite the same until a hitter steps into the batter's box against a pitcher.

"You're just looking for any info you can get," Lowrie said.

It will also be the first Safeco Field start for Bergman, who pitched for the Colorado Rockies from 2014-16.

"This is a great place," Bergman said. "I love the cold weather, it reminds me of Denver."
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