Cruz's Bat Lifts Rangers Over Indians in Cleveland Opener

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Nelson Cruz hits the two-run game-winning home run against Cleveland Indians.

    Almost undetected, Nelson Cruz is making major noise with his bat.

    Often overshadowed in Texas' powerful lineup, Cruz hit his fifth home run in seven games this season, connecting in the 10th inning for a two-run shot to send the Rangers to a 4-2 win over Cleveland that spoiled the Indians' sold-out opener Monday and manager Manny Acta's home debut.

    Cruz's homer off former teammate Jamey Wright (0-1) gave him the AL lead in homers and RBIs (11) and gave Texas its sixth straight win over Cleveland.

    Hitting behind Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero, Cruz doesn't get the publicity of his free-swinging All-Star teammates.

    Maybe he should.

    "That guy's got as much sock in his bat as anybody," said Wright, who played with the Rangers in 2007-08. "I've seen him do it plenty of times."

    Cruz's line shot onto the pedestrian home run porch at Progressive Field wrecked an otherwise pleasant opening day for Cleveland fans, who are concerned about the club's shaky bullpen.

    Through seven games, Cruz, who also tripled in the fourth, is batting .458 with eight of his 11 hits going for extra bases.

    "I just feel really comfortable right now," said Cruz, who hit 33 homers last season. "I was looking for a sinker there and he threw it. In that situation, to put us ahead, it was very exciting. I got off to a pretty good start last year, too. It's a long season and very early. I want to keep doing well for the team. We've got a lot of guys who can carry us."

    Frank Francisco (2-2), who lost his job as Texas' closer on Sunday, pitched a perfect ninth. Neftali Feliz, Francisco's temporary replacement, earned his third career save, throwing two fastballs that hit 101 mph and getting Michael Brantley for the final out on one that clocked 100.

    "Feliz didn't look nervous," manager Ron Washington said. "He got the three outs we needed. I was happy he got Brantley because I didn't want to see (Shin-Soo) Choo up there."

    Choo homered in the first and had three hits for the Indians, who have lost four in a row with a bullpen in disarray.

    One day after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth in a loss at Detroit, Cleveland's fill-in closer Chris Perez loaded the bases in the ninth without getting an out.

    He threw three straight balls before giving up a double to Joaquin Arias. Taylor Teagarden followed with a bunt that Perez fielded cleanly, but the right-hander's throw to third was high and not in time to get Arias. Perez then walked Elvis Andrus and was pulled by Acta.

    Afterward, Perez refused to place blame on anyone but himself.

    "I let all three guys get on, that's unacceptable," he said. "I've got to go back to the drawing board and figure some things out. It might just be one of those ruts. We all can't be Mariano Rivera."

    After Perez was pulled, Tony Sipp got pinch-hitter Ryan Garko to pop out before Acta, being forced to mix and match with closer Kerry Wood on the disabled list with a sore back, brought in Wright to face Michael Young. On the first pitch, Young bounced into a double play, ending the threat.

    Wright wasn't so fortunate in the 10th as Cruz helped the Rangers improve to 2-9 in road openers since 2000.

    Despite Perez's struggles, Acta said he's staying with the right-hander -- for now.

    "We're not going to run him out of town," he said. "We're not the only team struggling in the back of the bullpen."

    Texas is 9-1 against Cleveland the past two seasons.

    Rich Harden, who signed a one-year, $7.5 million free-agent contract with the Rangers in December, allowed two runs and five hits in six innings.

    Cleveland's Fausto Carmona had his second straight respectable start, allowing two runs and five hits in eight innings.

    The Indians didn't have center fielder Grady Sizemore, who missed his second straight game with tightness in his back. Sizemore's injury is not believed to be serious, but his absence from the lineup is noteworthy because the three-time All-Star once played in 382 straight games.

    It was actually the Indians' third opener in eight days. They opened in Chicago last week and played in Detroit's first home game on Friday.

    "We lead the league in home openers," Acta joked before the game.

    They went 0-3 in them.

    Texas took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on Young's two-out RBI single and Carmona's wild pitch.

    Cleveland tied it in the sixth off Harden on Travis Hafner's sacrifice fly. The Rangers kept it tied when center fielder Julio Borbon threw out Hafner trying to score from second on Matt LaPorta's single. Hafner barreled into Teagarden, but the catcher held onto the ball.

    "That's a big guy coming and I thought, 'I'm going to get killed here. If Julio makes a good throw, I'm going to get run over,"' Teagarden said. "I did. I'm not sore, but maybe I will be tomorrow. He put me on my head."

    NOTES: Indians catcher Mike Redmond was hit with foul balls in the knee, thigh and right shoulder -- all in the same inning. "It's my own fault, I signed up to be a catcher when I was young," said the 39-year-old. "But I love it." ... Wood, sidelined since spring training with a sore back, threw 20 pitches before the game. ... Hall of Famer Bob Feller, 91, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former Indians catcher Sandy Alomar, now Cleveland's first base coach.