The milestone was no-doubter Friday from the time it left Nelson Cruz’s bat. It was a 433-foot bomb to left-center field for the 300th homer of his career. It helped turn a one-run lead into a 7-2 victory over Oakland.
The cheering crowd rose to its feet as Cruz chugged around the bases, still slowed by a sore right knee. The surprise, at least to Cruz, is what came next.
The crowd kept cheering and didn’t stop until Cruz emerged from the dugout for an extra salute. A curtain call.
"That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me," he said. "It was definitely special."
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Baseball has always been stat-obsessed, and round numbers typically prompt reflective moments. That was true Friday for Cruz and manager Scott Servais who, as a farm director in Texas, played a role years ago in revitalizing Cruz’s career.
"There are a lot of people in this game," Servais said, "who would have bet that Nelson Cruz would never hit 300 home runs. He proved a lot of people wrong. We’ve been the beneficiary here in Seattle of seeing a bunch of them recently."
Now in his 13th season, Cruz is well-established as one of the game’s premier power hitters. He hit at least 40 homers in each of the three previous seasons and has 103 in his two-plus years with the Mariners.
"It’s special," he said. "I've come a long way. Not only what I did in baseball and in (working through) the minors. But in coming from the Dominican. Never in my dreams did I think about hitting 300 homers in the big leagues."
Cruz is the 10th active player with 300 homers. And it’s a good list: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Carlos Beltran, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Adrian Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson.
The club should gain another member before the season ends.
Robinson Cano has 295.
***The Mariners and Athletics continue their four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field when rookie right-hander Andrew Moore (1-1 with a 3.60 ERA) faces Oakland right-hander Chris Smith (4-3, 3.16 at Triple-A Nashville). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***It will be Moore’s third career start, but it’s a career first for Smith, a 36-year-old who has 63 relief appearances on his resume over parts of four seasons. The Athletics must officially recall Smith prior to the game after making a corresponding space-clearing move.
***Smith had a 2.92 ERA in 13 relief appearances last year for Oakland, which marked his return to the big leagues for the first time since 2010. He made 13 appearances in 2011 at Triple-A Tacoma before his release on May 19 and didn’t pitch again until signing with an independent team in 2013. He signed a minor-league deal in 2014 with San Diego. A year later, he signed a minor-league deal with the Athletics.
***Jean Segura is batting .352, which would lead the American League if he had sufficient plate appearances to qualify. He is eight shy, and adding an 0-for-8 to his totals drops him to .341 — behind Houston’s Jose Altuve’s league-leading .342.
***Cruz leads the league with 68 RBIs and is tied with Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado for the major-league lead. Cruz has a two-RBI edge in the AL over New York outfielder Aaron Judge.
***Utilityman Shawn O’Malley began his rehab assignment from shoulder surgery by going 2-for-2 with three walks Friday for Peoria in an 8-3 victory over the Padres in the Arizona Rookie League. O’Malley’s timetable targets a return in August.
***The first 20,000 fans through the gates Saturday at Safeco Field get a Kyle Seager bobblehead doll, courtesy of Root Sports. The doll depicts Seager making a diving play to his right at third base.
It was 23 years ago Saturday — July 8, 1994 — that Alex Rodriguez made his major-league debut as the Mariners’ starting shortstop at Boston. He was 18 years, 11 months, 11 days old.
Rodriguez batted ninth and went 0-for-3 in a 4-3 loss. He spent seven years with the Mariners before departing after the 2000 season by signing a free-agent deal with Texas.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners