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Cruz boosts O's over BoSox in Baltimore debut
Baltimore, MD (SportsNetwork.com) - Nelson Cruz made quite a first impression in his Baltimore Orioles' debut, belting a tie-breaking solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that lifted his new team to a 2-1 Opening Day win over the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.
Cruz, signed by the Orioles just prior to the start of spring training after finding a cold market in free agency, smacked the first pitch he saw from Jon Lester into the left-field seats of his new home park to snap a 1-1 tie in the seventh. The former Texas slugger also scored Baltimore's other run after reaching on a walk in his initial at-bat.
The blast made a winner out of Zach Britton (1-0), who twirled two scoreless innings in relief of starter Chris Tillman. Tommy Hunter got out of a jam in the ninth to protect the one-run lead and secure his first save of the season.
Cruz's homer also spoiled a memorable return to the majors for Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore, who went 2-for-4 with a solo homer in his first big league outing since Sept. 22, 2011.
However, Boston failed to provide any other support for Lester (0-1), who fanned eight over seven innings but gave up both Baltimore runs in a hard-luck defeat.
"I thought Jon Lester was in control of the ball game here today," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "[The Orioles] made the most of the hits that they put up."
The Red Sox stranded 12 runners while going 0-for-10 with men in scoring position, and had their chances against the Orioles' bullpen in each of the last two innings.
Evan Meek issued a pair of walks in the eighth to put the tying run in scoring position with two out, but Brian Matusz got A.J. Pierzynski to ground softly back to the mound and put out the threat.
Hunter came on in the ninth and promptly hit leadoff hitter Will Middlebrooks with a pitch, and Dustin Pedroia singled two batters later to put runners on first and second with only one out and the dangerous David Ortiz at the plate.
The Baltimore closer was able to retire the veteran slugger on a fly ball to left, however, before setting down Jackie Bradley Jr. on a called third strike for the final out.
"I started letting the heat towards the end," Hunter remarked. "When there's a guy on second base, you've got to dial it up a little bit."
Lester's only walk of the game came back to hurt the left-hander, as Cruz's leadoff free pass in the second was followed by a Matt Wieters single and Delmon Young's double-play grounder that brought in the game's first run.
Sizemore, forced out of baseball by a series of injuries in each of the previous two seasons, evened the score in the fourth by drilling Tillman's 3-1 offering over the scoreboard in right.
"Today was very exciting. I couldn't wait to get to the ball park, I was up first thing in the morning," Sizemore said. "I definitely had a better appreciation of the game and all the little things that go into it."
Tillman scattered seven hits and struck out four while working the first five innings, with Sizemore's homer his only run surrendered.
Bradley was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket prior to the game after the Red Sox placed right fielder Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained right hamstring he sustained running the bases on Saturday ... Sizemore's last homer also took place at Camden Yards on July 15, 2011, while then with the Cleveland Indians ... The Orioles paid tribute to former outfielder Paul Blair and public relations director Monica Barlow during pregame ceremonies. Blair, a member of two world championship teams during his 13-year tenure with Baltimore from 1964-76, died of a heart attack in December at age 69. Barlow passed away on Feb. 28 following a long battle with cancer ... Pierzynski made his 14th consecutive Opening Day start, the longest streak among active catchers ... The Red Sox will spend Tuesday's off day at the White House, where they will be honored by President Obama for their 2013 World Series title.
03/31 21:44:16 ET
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