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Cruz's two homers, grab pace Rangers

Cruz's two homers, grab pace Rangers

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, apparently determined to avoid repeating their last two Aprils, are making quite a fashion statement with their first season-opening winning streak in nine years.

Not since 2000 have the Rangers won at least the first two games of the season. That was also the last time the Rangers wore red caps before now.

The Rangers -- at the request of the players -- donned the red caps for the second straight game and upped their record to 2-0 with an 8-5 victory over the Indians at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Wednesday night. Texas hasn't won more than two in a row to start a season since they won seven straight in the red-capped year of 1996, when the famous Hunt for Red October took them to the first division title in club history.

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"It's the red hats," said C.J. Wilson, one of four relievers who followed winning pitcher Vicente Padilla to the mound. "I love the red hats. It makes us more aggressive and more manly. Red is the power color."

The Rangers were only supposed to wear red caps and red accessories on certain occasions this season, but this might create a groundswell.

"We like it," reliever Jason Jennings said. "I'm a big believer in if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Ride her until she bucks us off."

Nelson Cruz hit two home runs, Elvis Andrus hit the first of his embryonic Major League career and Frank Francisco finished it off with his first save. Padilla not only earned his first win of the season but snapped a six-game winless streak at home going back to June 17 of last year. The Rangers committed three throwing errors, but their five pitchers combined to hold the Indians to a 1-for-15 (.067) performance with runners in scoring position.

"Once again, our pitching kept us in the ballgame," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Cruz led off the second inning with home run that set off a four-run rally against Indians starter Fausto Carmona. Cruz added another with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when he blasted a full-count pitch from Rafael Perez into the club level [second deck] in left field. He became the 11th player to hit a ball into that level and it's the 15th time it's been done overall.

Andrus, who is 20 years old, made a little history in the sixth when he hit one into the Texas bullpen in right-center. He is the fourth youngest player in Rangers history to hit a home run and the youngest player in team history to go deep in the Ballpark. Adrian Beltre, just 19 when he homered for the Dodgers in June 1998, was the youngest.

"I just hit it hard and started running," Andrus said. "I ran past second base and I thought I had an easy triple. Then I saw everybody not moving. It feels great, but the most important thing is we won the game."

Cruz also had the defensive gem of the night in the top of the fifth with the Rangers leading, 4-1. With one out and a runner at second, Victor Martinez smashed one to deep right-center toward the angle where the bullpen wall meets the right-field wall. Cruz turned to his left, but the wind blew it deep and over his right shoulder.

"I broke the right way, but I didn't think the ball would go that far," Cruz said. "I just ran and ran, and at the last second, I threw my glove up. The ball stuck in there."

The catch stunned the Indians. Martinez stood in disbelief between first and second with his hands on his helmet.

"I don't know how he caught it," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.

"That's the most outstanding catch I've ever seen," Washington said. "I'm glad he caught it, because it could have been a disaster. That should be [the No. 1 highlight] on ESPN."

Martinez was also robbed in the top of the seventh when second baseman Ian Kinsler made a tremendous diving stop on his grounder in the right-side hole. A run still scored later that inning on Andrus' throwing error, but a bigger inning for the Indians was averted.

Everything has gone the Rangers' way in the first two games of the season, whether it's the red hats or not. Not since 2000 ...

"I'll tell you what, why not us?" outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "It's fun ... you know, it's fun. The test will be when we get down for the first time. Then we'll see what we're made of. But right now, it's fun."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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