ARLINGTON -- This May was not the best month of Nelson Cruz's career. He finished with a .216 batting average and struck out 33 times in just 97 at-bats.
But, even when he's not at his best, Cruz can still do some serious damage. Cruz was 1-for-4 on Friday night, but the hit was a three-run home run in the third inning that put the Rangers ahead for good in a 7-2 victory over the Royals at Rangers Ballpark.
"That's why I have him in there, with one swing of the bat he can make a big difference," manager Ron Washington said. "He went through a tough spell ... but tonight he gave us a big blow with that home run. That's the thing with Nelson and as long as he's healthy, you just have to ride him."
The Rangers have hit nine three-run homers this year and Cruz has four of them. He also has the Rangers' only grand slam. Friday's blast was his seventh home run of May and 13th of the season. His 19 RBIs equals his April amount and he has 39 overall after 54 games, including one in March. At this point, with the Rangers one-third of the way through the season, Cruz is on pace for what would be career highs of 39 home runs and 117 RBIs.
"I feel like I can get a hit every at-bat," Cruz said. "It's been tough, I feel like when I strike out, I get two strikes right away, bang bang. I feel pretty good at the plate. Hopefully, I can continue to hit and put up good at-bats."
Adrian Beltre was the Ranger who had the great month of May and he went 4-for-4 on Friday with his 11th home run of the year. It's the fourth time Beltre has had a four-hit game in May, making him the first Rangers player to do that in any month. His 44 hits in the month matched a club record for May set by Ruben Sierra in 1991, and Beltre ended up hitting .376 for the month after batting .232 in April.
"I'm doing better than I did the first month, but there's always room for improvement," Beltre said. "We all want to do the best we can every at-bat and I know I'm swinging the bat better, but I think I can do a lot better than I'm doing now."
Derek Holland also finished off an outstanding May by going seven innings to get the victory, holding the Royals to two runs in seven innings. Holland allowed eight hits and a walk while striking out eight in raising his record to 5-2 with a 2.81 ERA.
Holland ended up 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts in May. The Rangers won all six starts.
"I'm just attacking the zone and going after hitters," Holland said. "My big pet peeve is not walking hitters and keeping my defense on their toes so they can make plays. I felt like I did a good job of attacking the zone all night."
Holland gave up three hits in the third inning as the Royals took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Alcides Escobar. But the Rangers came back strong against Royals starter Wade Davis after two outs in the bottom of the inning.
David Murphy and Lance Berkman reached on infield singles and Beltre put the Rangers ahead with a hit up the middle. That brought up Cruz and he crushed a 3-1 pitch out to left field to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead.
"I was trying to go up and in and left it over the plate," Davis said. "In that situation, I was thinking up and in, not necessarily for a strike, but I knew he would swing and wanted a popup somewhere. I just left it over the middle."
"I was looking for something to drive and I got a fastball in," Cruz said. "I was able to do a good job with a good pitch. I was able to pull my hands inside and do the damage."
The Royals never recovered from that, not with the way Holland was throwing.
"That 3-1 hit that Nelly did was a big hit for them, obviously, to give Holland some room to calm down, to throw the ball and throw strikes," Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "He was doing that."
The Rangers added a two-run double by Leonys Martin in the sixth and Beltre's home run in the seventh. Reliever Tanner Scheppers worked the eighth and closer Joe Nathan retired the side in order in the ninth despite it not being a save situation.
Cruz recorded the second out of the inning by making a diving catch in right. But his big contribution for the night came with the bat.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.