Mariners Analysis: Cano, Cruz Homer their Way into Elite Group

Jul 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) hits a single during the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) hits a single during the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Robinson Cano pounded his 20th home run in yesterday’s 9-8 loss to the Houston Astros. The dinger put Cano and his partner in home run-bashing crime, Nelson Cruz, in a rare club of teammates who have homered 20 or more times before the All-Star break.

With one swing of the bat, Robinson Cano gave 40 swings of the bat between himself and  Nelson Cruz meaning that has only been matched in importance four previous times in franchise history. Their accomplishment of each hitting 20 or more home runs before the mid-summer classic is a rare achievement for any power-hitting duo, but for the Mariners who established themselves as the sultan’s of swat in the late 90’s, this mark- unrivaled for 16 seasons- now has a new set of future legends it can gush over.

It was no surprise when the Mariners signed Cano in 2014 and Cruz before the start of the 2015 season why they were being brought to the club. Both men had demolished the baseball with ease and regularity with their former teams, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles respectively. Cano’s early struggles and health issues had been widely publicized through his first two years, which explained his lack of home run production. The signing of Cruz however, paid of immediately, as he smashed forty homers in his inaugural season with the M’s.

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A healthy Cano has provided the Mariners with the pop they were hoping to get from him when he was a Yankee. And from very first series of the year against the Texas Rangers, he reassured anxious supporters, smacking four home runs in three games. He would go on to hit no-doubters with consistency, never going more than nine games without a long ball- that was until his longest slump, which coincidentally occurred in his pursuit of lucky number twenty. It would take a seventeen-game drought for Cano to hit the twentieth, but much like many of his others, it was instrumental to the M’s success- in the case starting a rally from down 5-0, eventually seeing his team knot the game at 7-7. En route to his share of the historic twenty, some of his most memorable knocks included three multi-homer games, and a grand slam versus division rivals, the Houston Astros.

For Cruz the journey to twenty grew more exciting as each month passed. Blasting a mediocre four homers in April, he was considerably behind the pace to get to the important mark. In May he picked up a couple more home runs than April, this time tallying six. What was most notable about all ten, was the fact that he didn’t accomplish a multi-homer game until the second week in June. But once June came around, Cruz locked in. Matching his season total in this month alone, brought him to twenty by June 28th (eight days before Cano would take number twenty out of the yard). Cruz’s homers were mostly early boosts for the team, hitting fifteen of his twenty-two before the sixth inning.

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So when Cano blasted his twentieth, what did it mean? What it meant was that these two would go down in Mariner lore with some of the organizations greatest players and dynamic duos, as this generations “Seattle Sluggers”. Prior to them, Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez achieved this triumph back and in 2000 (the last time M’s hit this target). Before them it was Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr., before them it was Griffey and Jay Buhner, but before all of those times, came the most impressive of all the twenty-plus combos. In 1996 the Mariners set a triple threat of twenty-something long bombs, coming off the bats of Griffey Jr., Martinez and Buhner who hit twenty-three, twenty-two and and twenty-three home runs respectively. Of course two of these men are Hall of Famers (Griffey and Rodriguez) and the other two are in the Mariners Hall of Fame. Not to mention that all four are ranked as the top four home run hitters in franchise history.

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This does not mean the same will happen for Cruz and Cano, but that was why they were brought to Seattle, and they are now delivering. Hopefully in the shorter, but most grueling second half of the season they can re-accomplish this historic run and use their power to knock the Mariners back into the post season as the legends that came before them did.