Nelson Cruz hits solo home run in 7th to lift Orioles to 2-1 win over Red Sox on Opening Day

Orioles left fielder Nelson Cruz hits a solo home run against Boston Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester in the bottom of the seventh inning at Camden Yards. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun /March 31, 2014)

(TheBaltimoreSun) The path that brought Nelson Cruz to the orange carpet for Opening Day introductions at Camden Yards on Monday afternoon wasn’t the one he imagined months ago when he became a free agent. But if there was any doubt in his mind whether he landed in the right place, those questions were answered quickly.

As Cruz ran down the carpet before the Orioles’ season opener against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, Baltimore welcomed him with the long, exaggerated chant of his last name — “Cruuuuuzzzz” — a sound he had heard for several years from adoring fans in his former home ballpark playing for the Texas Rangers.

“A shock,” Cruz later called it.

The cheer also came before his first at-bat. It came after he made a jumping catch in front of the left-field wall in the second inning, and the chant was at its loudest when Cruz gave the announced sellout crowd of 46,685 the biggest hit of the afternoon — a solo homer in the seventh-inning that proved to be the game-winner in a tightly contested 2-1 win for the Orioles over the Red Sox at Camden Yards.

“It was really neat, it was special,” Cruz said of the crowd’s reaction. “I think I made the right call to come and be part of this organization, be part of this town. Hopefully now I can do some other stuff to contribute for the team.”

The win was the Orioles’ fourth straight Opening Day victory. They’ve won their last five season openers against Boston.

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