BALTIMORE (AP) — Nelson Cruz celebrated his Orioles debut by hitting a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning and Baltimore beat Jon Lester and the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox 2-1 Monday before an appreciative sellout crowd on opening day.
Signed as a free agent in February, Cruz lined a solo shot into the left-field seats to put the Orioles ahead. He hit 27 homers last year with Texas during a season marred by a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball in the Biogenesis drug scandal.
Cruz wasn’t the only player to enjoy a successful start with his new team.
After missing two seasons recovering from knee surgery, Boston center fielder Grady Sizemore marked his return from a 922-day absence with a second-inning single for his first hit since September 2011. The three-time All-Star for Cleveland later hit his first home run since July 15, 2011, which also came at Camden Yards.
Zach Britton (1-0) got the win with two scoreless innings of relief and Tommy Hunter worked the ninth for his first save. Hunter earned the job as closer this spring after the Orioles dealt away Jim Johnson during the offseason.
The Red Sox got two on with one out in the ninth before World Series MVP David Ortiz hit a fly ball and Jackie Bradley Jr. took a called third strike.
Starting on the road for the fourth year in a row, the Red Sox got nine hits but stranded 12 and went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Making his fourth straight opening day start for Boston, Lester (0-1) gave up two runs, six hits and a walk in seven innings. He struck out eight.
Orioles starter Chris Tillman allowed one run, seven hits and a walk in five innings. The right-hander went 3-1 against Boston last year, but in this one he needed 104 pitches to get 15 outs.
Britton entered in the sixth and worked out of trouble after giving up a one-out double to Xander Bogaerts. The left-hander got three straight outs in the seventh, the only time all day that Boston went down in order.
Evan Meek walked two in the eighth before Brian Matusz retired A.J. Pierzynski on a comebacker.
Gametime temperature was announced at 60 degrees, but a stiff wind chilled many in the crowd of 46,685 — the 23rd consecutive opening day sellout at Camden Yards.
Hopeful that the offseason acquisitions of Cruz and right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will enable Baltimore to return to the playoffs after missing out last year, Orioles fans were out in force. Until recently, games against Boston often drew as many Red Sox backers as those rooting for the home team.
The Orioles used a walk, a single by Matt Wieters and a double-play grounder to take a 1-0 lead in the second.
The Red Sox put runners at second and third with two outs in the third before Tillman struck out Mike Carp. In the fourth, however, Sizemore hit a 3-1 pitch over the right-field wall.
NOTES: Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who led the majors with 53 homers and 138 RBIs last year, went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. … Dustin Pedroia got Boston’s first hit of the season, a one-out single in the first inning, to extend his hitting streak on opening day to eight games. … After taking Tuesday off, the teams meet Wednesday night. John Lackey (13-5 lifetime against Baltimore) faces Jimenez in his Orioles debut. … The Red Sox put RF Shane Victorino (hamstring) on the 15-day disabled list and recalled Bradley. … Ortiz received his 12th opening day start at DH, tying Don Baylor’s major league record at the position.