After his second three-homer game in less than two weeks, Nelson Cruz is officially the hottest hitter on the planet, and it's not close.
Cruz went 3-for-4 with three homers and five RBI in the Twins' 11-3 win over the Royals Saturday night, doing that one night after going 3-for-5 with a homer and two doubles that hit off the top of the wall in right-center field.
Not a bad return to action after sitting out the interleague series in Miami (he had one pinch-hit at-bat). The nine games before the series in Miami, here's what he did:
- 2-for-5, 2B, RBI
- 0-for-3, BB
- 3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, BB
- 3-for-5, 3 HR, 5 RBI
- 2-for-4, HR, RBI, BB
- 1-for-5, HR, RBI
- 1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI
- 1-for-4, BB
- 1-for-4, HR, RBI
That amounts to an 11-game stretch where Cruz has gone 20-for-46 with 12 homers and 24 RBI.
For perspective, Barry Bonds' hottest stretch of his record-setting 73-homer season in 2001 featured 14 homers in 14 games, 11 of which came in a 10-game span. Mark McGwire, during his 70-homer season in 1998, never did better than 11 homers in an 11-game span.
Cruz has had three games with five RBI in the last two weeks. He's now tied with Jason Kubel for the most games with five RBI in a Twins season. Kubel had four such games in 2009, and Cruz has four this season, including three since June 20.
The 39-year-old's numbers rival the best of the best in the league. Look where he ranks in the American League.
- AVG: .295 (12th)
- HR: 30 (2nd)
- RBI: 72 (9th)
- OBP: .386 (7th)
- SLG: .652 (2nd)
- OPS: 1.039 (2nd)
Cruz is on pace to finish the season with a pitcher-scaring slash line of .295/.385/.652, along with 44 homers and 106 RBI. We repeat: He's 39.
If he weren't a designated hitter, there would be significant MVP chatter around his name. And it's still possible that he puts himself in the MVP conversation if the Twins keep winning and he keeps hitting the way he has.