^By DAVID GINSBURG=
^AP Sports Writer=
BALTIMORE (AP) _ The next time the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox meet, summer will be winding down and football season will almost be here.
Until then, each team will do its best to be in contention when the next series between these AL East foes gets under way.
Andrew Benintendi hit two home runs, Chris Sale pitched six innings to earn his sixth straight win and Boston beat Baltimore 7-3 Sunday for a split of the four-game series.
The Red Sox broke a sixth-inning tie by scoring two unearned runs on a throwing error by catcher Francisco Pena, and Benintendi’s second homer made it 6-3 in the seventh.
With the victory, the Red Sox improved to 6-7 against the Orioles. Nearly a quarter of Boston’s first 56 games were against Baltimore, but the teams won’t play again until Aug. 25.
That’s why the Red Sox were delighted to win the final two games to get a split.
“We’re neck-and-neck with this team and this division is going to be bunched up for the foreseeable future,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “To get out of here even instead of being down 3-1, it’s a big swing day for us.”
Speaking of big swings, Benintendi hit two solo shots before adding an RBI single in the ninth. It was the first career multihomer game for the rookie, who entered in a 1-for-21 skid.
“He has a gift of being a very even-tempered guy,” Farrell said. “Through these couple of dry spells, he’s kept his head on his shoulders.”
Sale (7-2) struck out nine to increase his major-league leading total to 119. The left-hander is 6-0 in his last seven starts, a streak that began with a win over Baltimore on May 2.
His outing came on the heels of a similarly effective outing by David Price on Saturday night.
“Winning those first two games and trying to take a shot at those two guys, it’s a challenge,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Chris Tillman (1-3) kept the Orioles even until the sixth. After a single and two walks loaded the bases with one out, Sandy Leon struck out. With Deven Marrero at the plate, Tillman bounced an 0-2 pitch that glanced off Pena’s shoulder and into his glove.
As Mitch Moreland edged down the line, Pena launched a throw that sailed wide of third base, allowing Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. to score.
“I just tried to be too quick, tried to put a perfect throw, and I messed it up,” Pena said.
After Boston jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Sale yielded three runs and three hits in the bottom half. Chris Davis drove in two runs with an opposite-field single to left and scored on a double by Jonathan Schoop, the first of his three hits.
“I really had to kind of refocus after that and not let my emotions get the best of me,” Sale said.
Benintendi tied it with his sixth home run, the first in 81 at-bats since May 7.
Boston leadoff batter Mookie Betts got his 500th career hit with a swinging bunt to open the game. He is the seventh Red Sox player in the last 100 years to reach the 500-mark before his 25th birthday.
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed).