Given that the Mariners have three games remaining this month, starting Tuesday night with the second of three at Texas, it’s unlikely Nelson Cruz will eclipse Ken Griffey’s April franchise records of 13 home runs and 30 RBIs in 1997 when Griffey earned his only Most Valuable Player award. But Cruz, who can play a maximum of 22 games this month vs. Griffey’s 26 in 1997, is giving it an excellent shot.
With a run-scoring single in the first inning Monday night (the Mariners were 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position over four games before the Cruz single), Cruz increased his MLB-leading RBI total to 21 in 19 games. That makes Cruz one of the four most prolific run producers in the first 20 games of any season in franchise history.
In 1997 (his MVP award was the 13th unanimous choice), Griffey delivered 25 RBIs in Seattle’s first 20 games. Only Griffey in 1998 and Jay Buhner in 2000, both with 22, accounted for more RBIs than Cruz in the first 20 games of a season:
|1997||Ken Griffey Jr.||25||Team-record 30 RBIs in April en route to MVP|
|1998||Ken Griffey Jr.||22||Finished with 146 RBIs after hitting 56 home runs|
|2000||Jay Buhner||22||After hot start, played in only 112 games (injuries)|
|2000||Edgar Martinez||21||Led AL with 145 RBIs, career-high 37 homers|
|2015||Nelson Cruz||21||Leads AL in homers (9), RBIs, 6th in OPS (1.051)|
|1994||Ken Griffey Jr.||19||40 home runs, 90 RBIs in strike-shortened year|
|1990||Ken Griffey Jr.||17||20-year-old drove in 80 in first of 10 All-Star years|
Signed to a four-year, $57 million deal in December after hitting 40 home runs for Baltimore, Cruz is the first Mariner with 20 or more RBIs in any month since Dustin Ackley drove in 24 in August. According to Elias, Cruz is also the third player since 1920 to record more than 20 hits (he has 23) and 20 RBIs in fewer than 20 games for different teams in back-to-back years (he had 22 and 21 for the Orioles last year), joining Joe Rudi (A’s and Angels, 1976-77) and Manny Ramirez (Indians and Red Sox, 2000-01).
Griffey’s 30 RBIs were three shy of the franchise record for any month. Both Edgar Martinez and Mike Blowers had 33 RBIs in August, 1995, when the Mariners launched their comeback from a 13-game deficit in the AL West. They completed the comeback in September in part due to Buhner matching the Martinez-Blowers record with 33 RBIs.
The Mariners, who snapped a two-game losing streak Monday with a 3-1 victory, send J.A. Happ (1-1, 2.61) to the mound. He will oppose LHP Ross Detwiler (0-2, 10.95).