ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 17: Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers rounds third base after hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on June 17, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Nelson Cruz ran out on to the field for pregame warmups on Monday evening prior to the AL Wild Card tiebreaker game with Tampa Bay to a thunderous applause.
The applause grew ten-fold when Cruz stepped into the batter's box for the first time in the second inning, hitting sixth in the Rangers' lineup as the designated hitter.
With Adrian Beltre on second base, Cruz ripped a line drive that was caught by Tampa first baseman James Loney, and that was the highlight of Cruz's night in what could've been his final game in a Rangers uniform as he recorded the game's final out against David Price as Tampa Bay advanced to the AL Wild Card Game in Cleveland with a 5-2 win to end the Rangers' season.
"It was about what I expected," Rangers manager Ron Washington told reporters of Cruz's 0-for-4 line. "His timing was a little off."
Cruz had faced Instructional League pitchers (the equivalent of basically Single-A and Double-A pitching) for the past couple of weeks before returning to Arlington on Saturday night. He had to be in the lineup on Monday night, it was a no-brainer, with the hope he might have gotten lucky and run into a fastball with his patented boomstick.
But that didn't happen. After that second-inning line drive, he had a weak groundout, a strikeout and the game-ending groundout.
Cruz finished the season with 27 home runs — second on the team behind Beltre — even though he missed 50 games with the PED suspension. It's a big question mark whether he'll be back in 2014, but Rangers fans might have had a classic "so good to see you again, ok goodbye" moment on Monday night. Time will tell.