BOSTON — Nelson Cruz watched his fifth hit fall into the gap in left-center field and was determined to leg out a triple for the cycle.
“I had to try and see what happened,” Cruz said, smiling. “I don’t remember the last time I hit a triple.”
Cruz was thrown out, but it was the only thing he did wrong on a night he went a career-best 5 for 5 to help the Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 7-4 on Saturday to earn a split of a day-night doubleheader.
“I’m glad they didn’t hit the first cutoff guy, at least it was close,” manager Buck Showalter said of Cruz, who added a solo home run and a bad-hop single in the sixth inning that scored the go-ahead run. “Guys were screaming at me to do the replay (challenge).”
The Red Sox won the opener 3-2 on pinch-hitter Jonathan Herrera’s one-out, broken-bat RBI single off T.J. McFarland in the bottom of the ninth.
“I was taking some swings in the cage,” a smiling Herrera said after the Red Sox snapped a three-game skid with their six last at-bat win of the season. “I was ready for that at-bat.”
Nick Hundley added a two-run homer in the second game as Baltimore overcame Boston starter John Lackey’s 11 strikeouts over 5 2-3 innings.
“That’s about as good stuff as I’ve had all year and I’m trying to figure what happened to give up five runs,” Lackey said.
Stephen Drew homered in both games for the Red Sox, who have lost four of five. Drew hadn’t homered since Boston’s World Series clinching Game 6 win in October.
Brad Bach (3-0) and four other Baltimore relievers combined to shut down Boston on one hit in the second game after Ubaldo Jimenez gave up four runs, five hits with six walks while getting 11 outs.
“He’s just inconsistent,” Showalter said. “It’s frustrating, because his stuff is there.”
While third baseman Manny Machado went 2 for 5 in the nightcap in his return from his five-game suspension for throwing a bat during a June 8 game against Oakland, Cruz carried Baltimore after a heartbreaking opening loss.
Cruz doubled, singled, hit his 27th home run, and finally chased Lackey with a single that took a big hop off the lip in front of third base in a three-run sixth.
Cruz doubled into the gap off Edward Mujica in the eighth, but was cut down at third on a relay throw from Drew. His average jumped to .286.
“I tried one last year and I got thrown out at third, too,” said Cruz, who last tripled in 2011. “It’s why I don’t try it.”
Lackey (9-6) was charged with five runs and 10 hits, a much different outing than Boston got in the opener.
Jon Lester gave up two unearned runs, struck out seven and walked none in eight innings, but was denied his 10th win due to shoddy defense and poor hitting.
After closer Koji Uehara (4-2) pitched a perfect ninth to keep it 2-2, manager John Farrell went to his bench.
Pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes legged out a leadoff infield single off McFarland (1-2). David Ross bunted Gomes to second before Herrera, hitting for Jackie Bradley Jr., dropped a blooper to right that scored a sliding Gomes and snapped Baltimore’s four-game winning streak.
Drew, re-signed in May, came in hitting .136. He hit a solo shot in the opener and his two-run homer in the second game off Jimenez came in a four-run fourth that put the Red Sox ahead 4-2.
“I knew it was going to be a little different, not being in this position before,” Drew said. “I’m not making excuses, it just takes a little time. It’s going to come around.”