Nelson Cruz had a pair of hits and Miguel Gonzalez took a shutout into the seventh inning as the Baltimore Orioles opened a double-digit lead in the AL East with a 4-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday night.
The Orioles lead the division by 10 games, and the second-place New York Yankees have 21 games to play. Baltimore’s previous double-digit lead in the division was in 1979.
Gonzalez (9-7) allowed six hits and three walks while striking out four in 6 1-3 innings. He has allowed just four earned runs in his last 34 2-3 innings over five starts, winning four of them. Steve Pearce also had two hits for Baltimore, which has won nine of its last 12 games.
Joe Kelly (1-2) allowed three earned runs, six hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings. He also hit two batters, and struck out six.
The last-place Red Sox had only one runner reach second base in the first six innings and did not put a runner on third until the seventh. They loaded the bases with three straight singles against Gonzalez in the seventh, but Tommy Hunter struck out Will Middlebrooks and David Ross to end the inning.
Baltimore went ahead on singles by Cruz, Chris Davis and Pearce in the second. The Orioles added two runs in the sixth thanks to a walk, a hit batter and an error on shortstop Xander Bogaerts when he couldn’t convert a double play. Another failed double play helped Baltimore score a run in the seventh.
Orioles: SS J.J. Hardy missed the game — his third in a row — and was sent back to Baltimore to have an MRI on his ailing back. Hardy said he took some groundballs and swings but wasn’t healthy enough to play. He was scheduled to fly to Baltimore for tests and a possible cortisone shot.
Red Sox: DH David Ortiz (right foot) and 1B Mike Napoli (illness) returned after missing Sunday’s game.
UP NEXT: The teams play the second game of the three-game series on Tuesday, with Christ Tillman (11-5) scheduled to face Boston rookie Anthony Ranaudo (3-1). The Orioles’ magic number to clinch the AL East is 11.
SINGLE PLAY: The Red Sox hit into three double plays. But they couldn’t turn one in the infield despite five chances, with Orioles batters repeatedly beating the relay to first. With the bases loaded in the sixth inning, the Red Sox botched a potential 3-6-1 double play when shortstop Bogaerts’ throw bounced past Kelly, who was covering first, allowing another run to score. Boston did manage a strike out-throw out double play in the ninth.
KICKING IT AROUND: Boston had three errors in the game. In addition to Bogaerts’ error, Red Sox catcher David Ross threw the ball into center field when attempting to catch Alejandro De Aza stealing second in the seventh. With De Aza on third, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes was rushing in to field Adam Jones’ fly ball but muffed it, allowing the run to score.