ARLINGTON, Tex. The Texas Rangers have another star on their hands.
They already have a face of the franchise in Michael Young. They have the most recognized team president in Nolan Ryan. They have the reigning American League most valuable player in Josh Hamilton.
But after a performance like no one has ever seen in the American League Championship Series, they have a new brace-faced superstar in Nelson Cruz.
The affable Cruz, who won the team's good guy award last year for his work with the media, put on a display of power in the ALCS like no one has ever seen. By the time his sixth home run of the series landed in the stands in left field in the seventh inning of the 15-5 Texas victory over Detroit, there was already no doubt he would be the ALCS MVP.
He finished the series with six home runs, 13 RBI and a laser of a throw from right field in the pivotal Game 4. The only thing he didn't do was rescue a kitten from a tree, but that may have been just because he didn't have enough time.
The series certainly put his name into the national spotlight.
"It's just amazing," Cruz said. "It's just a great group of guys. It was a team effort."
It may have been a team effort, but it was a team that Cruz carried on his back. The Rangers had seven homers in the series, with Michael Young accounting for the only other one. He had a walkoff homer to win Game 2 and then iced Game 4 with a three-run homer.
All he did in Saturday was go 2 for 4 with the homer and a double. He also scored twice and drew a walk. He finished the series hitting .364.
"I think his greatest asset is he's a threat," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "One swing of the bat he can change a ballgame around. And he can change it with a single, double, triple or a home run."
Well maybe just a double or home run. All eight of his hits in the series went for extra bases, with his only two that weren't homers doubles.
The lofty company he's entered in just his second postseason is dizzying. He's already 14th all-time in postseason home runs with 12. Only Carlos Beltran homers in the playoffs more frequently than Cruz does. He's the only player to ever hit six homers in two different postseasons.
And don't forget that Cruz came into the ALCS after going just 1 for 15 in the American League Division Series. But it all clicked in for Cruz when he hit a homer off Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the ALCS.
It still hasn't stopped.
"I feel like the last few games I saw the better," Cruz said. "Even today my timing was better."
Cruz did grab at his right side during his fourth inning at-bat. That made the Texas faithful nervous, but Cruz said he's fine but he's still feeling a little bit of pain from getting hit by a Jose Valverde pitch in Game 2.
After that at-bat, teammate Michael Young told him not to push things if he wasn't at 100 percent. Cruz did stay in the game and added to his homer total.
His performance is something his teammates have seen before, but never on a stage so big.
"An unbelievable series," said Young. "When Nellie gets hot, he's as dangerous as any hitter in the game. We're confident he'll keep it rolling in the World Series."