Jacob Cruz says he's "still a doubles guy" but Tuesday night he joined the Buffalo Bisons home-run parade in a big way at North AmeriCare Park.
In losing the opener of a doubleheader with the Ottawa Lynx, 7-4, Buffalo failed to hit one out of the park for only the fourth game this month. The homer drought didn't last long.
Cruz got the Herd off the launching pad with a laser shot down the line in left field in the second inning of the nightcap. That gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead, and the Herd went on to a 10-1 victory and a split with Ottawa before 10,090.
It was the 183rd homer of the season for the Bisons, breaking the modern-era franchise record of 182 set by last year's American Association champions.
In the third inning, Cruz tripled and scored one of five Buffalo runs that made the score 9-1. Another solo shot in the fourth, Cruz's 10th as a Bison, accounted for the final run.
Counting his 18 home runs with Fresno in the Pacific Coast League, the former Arizona State University star has 28 home runs for the season.
"After watching guys like Jeff Manto and Phil Hiatt hit home runs, it's nice to get a couple," Cruz said.
But he added, "I'm still a doubles guy."
The split dropped the Bisons (74-57) one game behind Syracuse (74-55) in the North Division standings of the International League. The SkyChiefs won in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 4-1. Pawtucket (71-57) remained 1 1/2 games behind Buffalo after a rainout in Rochester.
Cruz went 4 for 7 in the doubleheader, giving him 19 hits in his last 53 at-bats with four home runs and 10 RBIs.
"It's one of those things where if you get in your groove it doesn't matter whether you're away or home or what," said Cruz, who extended his hitting streak to seven games.
In addition, he turned in a couple of defensive gems as well. Playing left field in the first game, he gunned down Trace Coquilette of the Lynx at second trying to stretch a single. As the center fielder in the nightcap, he made a sprawling over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track on a ball hit by Chris Saunders.
Cruz feels more comfortable in right field but he thinks showing he can handle left and center will help his career in the long run.
"Personally, it might be a little selfish, but I like that trade," said Bisons manager Jeff Datz. He was talking about a June deal that brought the 25-year-old outfielder from the San Francisco Giants organization to the Cleveland Indians with Steve Reed for Jose Mesa, Shawon Dunston and Alvin Morman.
"He does a solid job in all three (outfield) positions," said Datz. "Jacob Cruz has hit the ball since he got
here. He's got a good-looking swing and good power from right-center over, but he can turn on the ball, too."
Both of Cruz's homers were to the opposite field, left.
Jolbert Cabrera and Huck Flener were other standouts in Buffalo's second-game victory. Cabrera homered and had four RBIs. Flener (7-3) came through with a sturdy pitching performance in his first start since June 26.
Flener allowed five hits in six innings. The only run came off a second-inning homer by Saunders. Dave Villone, back from Cleveland on a rehabilitation assignment, pitched a scoreless ninth to close it out.
"We needed a split and he (Flener) did a good job," said Datz. "He kept them off the board and our offense got going after their guy (Mike) Johnson shut us down in the first game."
Neither side could hit a baseball over the fence in the first game. Instead, the Lynx singled and doubled Buffalo to death in what started out as a pitching duel between Johnson and Bisons left-hander Eddie Priest (6-5).
It was a 2-2 game after five. Then Ottawa batted around in the sixth, getting four consecutive run-producing hits -- three singles and a double -- with two outs against reliever Jeff Sexton to take a 7-2 lead. The Bisons got one in the sixth and one in the seventh but the game ended when Ottawa reliever Ben Fleetham struck out Bill Selby with the bases full.
This afternoon's season-series finale between the teams -- the Bisons are 9-6 against the Lynz -- will clear the deck for three key games between the Bisons and Syracuse Thursday (two) and Friday night at the NAP.