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Middlebrooks, Brentz go deep in first split-squad game

Owens pitches into third, gets tagged for three runs against Orioles

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles got all the building blocks for success on Saturday, when they rode a strong pitching performance and an opportunistic offense to a 7-3 win in the first of two split-squad games against Boston.

Bud Norris got things off to a good start for the Orioles by shutting down the Red Sox for three innings, and Baltimore managed to score the first three runs of the game. Nelson Cruz doubled and scored on a Matt Wieters single in the second inning, and the Orioles came back for two more in the third.

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Nick Markakis started the third-inning rally with a leadoff double, and J.J. Hardy pushed him around the bases with a double into the right-field corner. The Orioles (6-2) scored once more in the third inning, and veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez drilled a two-run homer off Alex Wilson in the sixth.

Boston's Will Middlebrooks gave the Red Sox (2-6-1) their first run with a home run to right-center in the third inning. The road team notched just three hits against Baltimore pitching in the first six innings, and the Red Sox stranded their only runner in scoring position over that span.

Norris, who had thrown two scoreless innings in his spring debut, controlled the Red Sox from the first inning. Norris struck out four batters -- two swinging and two looking -- and coaxed a double play. Boston notched just two hits against Norris, singles by Middlebrooks and Bryce Brentz.

The rest of the offense for the Red Sox came on a two-run homer from Brentz in the seventh.

Baltimore has won four straight Spring Training games. Boston starter Henry Owens worked into the third inning and allowed five hits in his brief outing. Owens also walked two batters and was charged with three earned runs, but Boston got effective relief work from Matty Ott and Tommy Layne.

The Red Sox retired one runner at the plate on a fielder's choice, and they cut down another run on a strong throw by left fielder Henry Ramos in the fifth inning. Quinton Berry, who had pinch-run for Hardy, was thrown out at the plate with the Orioles leading by two runs.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for

Boston Red Sox