TEX@LAA: Cruz crushes three-run homer to center field

MINNEAPOLIS -- A renewed focus on staying healthy in the last two years has been paying off for Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz.

After missing a combined 92 games in 2010 and 2011 because of struggles with various injuries, Cruz was absent from the Rangers' lineup only three times in Texas' past 187 games entering Sunday.

"Last year I changed my routine completely during the offseason, and I did the same thing this year also," Cruz said prior to Sunday's series finale against the Twins. "I focused more on whatever issue I have, especially my legs -- my hamstrings and my quads."

With a full year spent free of any long-term injury concerns, the 32-year-old Cruz has thrived so far this season.

Twenty-five games into the year, Cruz has yet to take a day off and does not appear ready to do so anytime soon. With his injury concerns seemingly behind him, the 32-year-old Cruz has thrived. On a five-game hitting streak entering Sunday, he had notched 13 of his 19 RBIs in the last seven games.

"He's an animal; look at him," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "At some point I'm going to give him a day off. It's just that he's been productive, and sometimes it's hard to pull that out of the lineup, especially if you don't have a replacement."

Slumps have been of little issue to Rangers

SEA@TEX: Washington on Rangers' offensive outburst

MINNEAPOLIS -- Prolonged slumps have not manifested for the Rangers in the first month of the season, not even ones lasting more than a day.

Owners of the second-best record in the Major Leagues, the Rangers were the only team to have not lost back-to-back games entering Sunday's series finale. That streak of resiliency has pushed them out to a blistering start and cemented them atop the American League West standings.

Texas, however, was tripped up abruptly Saturday in the third game of the four-game set with the Twins. Minnesota bypassed a solid start by Texas left-hander Derek Holland to take advantage of the Rangers' suddenly stagnant bats, subduing its opponent in a 7-2 rout. It was just the second loss in nine games for Texas.

But with a pitching staff that owns the best ERA in the American League (2.92), the Rangers have had the depth to not let periodic drops in offensive production derail them early in the year.

"We've got a lot of ways to get [wins]," right fielder Nelson Cruz said. "We don't need to score that many runs. It's been like that all year. When we need pitching, the pitching's been there. When we need offense, the offense has been there. It shows how deep we are as a team."

If the first 24 games are any indication, Texas is proving to be a difficult team to bet against, even after a game manager Ron Washington called the "first real bad game we've had."

Worth noting

• While the Rangers' bullpen has put up impressive numbers since the onset of the season, reliever Michael Kirkman has struggled to settle in throughout April.

Kirkman was tagged for three runs off four hits in the eighth inning Saturday in relief of Holland with the Rangers trying to come back from a 3-0 deficit. In his last five appearances, Kirkman surrendered six runs in six innings of work, causing his ERA to inflate to 6.97.

Washington, however, does not appear concerned by Kirkman's slow start.

"In this game sometimes you can do the things you want to do right, and the results you're looking for just aren't there," Washington said. "He's just got to keep grinding, and things will turn around. We've just got to keep getting the ball to Mike."

• Washington approached second baseman Ian Kinsler prior to Texas' series finale with the Twins on Sunday about sitting out the afternoon. But Kinsler declined, insisting that the Rangers' off-day before opening Tuesday's series with the White Sox would be enough for him.

The Rangers' leadoff hitter has been a consistent force in the lineup, used in 24 of 25 games this season. Kinsler posted seven hits in the first three games of the series against the Twins, including four doubles, and he had 14 RBIs and a .315 batting average entering Sunday's series finale,