BOSTON – Nelson Cruz was the offensive star in the Orioles 7-4 win in the nightcap of the doubleheader against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday.
He went 5-for-5 with a home run, two doubles, two RBI, and a run scored. He fell a triple shy of the cycle, and was thrown out at third base in the eighth inning trying to stretch a double into a triple. Cruz recorded a career-high five hits and matched a career high for the fifth time with three extra-base hits.
He is the first visiting player with at least five hits at Fenway since J.J. Hardy did so in a 17-inning game on May 6, 2012. That was the last five-hit game by a Baltimore batter. Nick Markakis was the last O’s batter with five hits in a nine-inning game, on July 3, 2011, at Atlanta.
John Lackey served up three of Cruz’s hits, including a first-inning double, a third-inning single, and a fifth-inning solo home run.
Lackey took the loss in the game, falling to 9-6 as his ERA rose from 3.62 to 3.84. He went 5 1/3 innings, giving up five runs, matching a season-high 10 hits, including two home runs, with one walk and a season-high 11 strikeouts, one shy of his career high. He became the first Red Sox pitcher to ever record 10 or more strikeouts while going less than six innings.
Generally, players will tip their proverbial caps to opponents who perform well – albeit, not happily; they are competitors, after all. But, it’s the respectful thing to do. Lackey is no different. The 12-year veteran usually has no problem giving credit where it’s due.
He was not so magnanimous this time.
Asked what he thought of Cruz’s performance, Lackey replied:
“I’m not even going to comment on him. I’ve got nothing to say about him. There’s things I would like to say but I’m not going to . . . You guys forget pretty conveniently about stuff.”
The last was a slightly veiled reference to Cruz’s 50-game suspension last August as part of the Biogenesis scandal, one of 13 players suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s drug agreement. Cruz signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the O’s as a free agent this offseason.
Cruz entered the game batting a career .273 against Lackey, going 9-for-33 with one home run and seven RBI. They have faced each other in two previous games this season. Cruz hit a home run off Lackey in the right-hander’s first start of the season, April 2 at Camden Yards, a game in which Lackey earned the win. Cruz had a two-run single on April 18 at Fenway, a game in which Lackey took the loss.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was only slightly more generous in his summation of Cruz’s game.
“He’s swinging a hot bat,” Farrell said. “Looks strong.”
Cruz is hitting .286/.353/.581 this season, with 27 home runs and 70 RBI. In 12 games against the Red Sox this year, he is hitting .318, raising his average in the doubleheader 61 points, with four home runs and 11 RBI.
The Sox and O’s have seven games remaining this season, including the series finale Sunday afternoon at Fenway.