Lowell slam dunks Orioles

Bob Stern

A pattern is beginning to emerge here, and that’s OK with the Red Sox.

Simply, it goes like this: Walk Manny Ramirez intentionally, have Mike Lowell hit a grand slam.

It happened for the second time this season Thursday night at Fenway Park, and Lowell’s slam keyed the Red Sox’s 9-2 win over the Orioles.

“They won’t (stop) walking Manny to get to me,” said Lowell, “which is perfect.”

The other time that happened was on May 22 against the Royals. KC walked Manny intentionally, Lowell cleared the bases with one swing and the Sox went on to win 11-7.

But Lowell is making that move harder and harder to do.

“Manny’s got a pretty good resume,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.”

“I’d walk Manny too,” said Lowell. “If I hit a groundball, it’s a double play. I really enjoy hitting in that situation so it doesn’t bother me.”

With the Sox nursing a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled. One out later, J.D. Drew doubled to center and Orioles manager Dave Trembley decided to walk Ramirez intentionally to load the bases and take his chances with Lowell.

Some managers will never learn.

Lowell turned on Jeremy Guthrie’s 0-1 pitch and sent it sailing into the first row of the Monster seats for a 5-0 lead and the Sox were on their way to the victory.

“In that situation, I want to get one run in,” said Lowell. “All the others are a bonus.”

Lowell said he hit a slider, but wasn’t looking for that particular pitch.

“The situation has a lot to do with it,” he said. “I’m looking for a pitch to drive. What that is, it depends on the situation. I’m not a guess hitter, especially when the guy throws 96.”

The grand slam was the eighth of Lowell’s career and the fourth for the Red Sox this season. He’s the first Red Sox player with multiple grand slams in a season since David Ortiz had two in 2006.

“You’ve got an open base, it’s hard not to do that,” said Francona. “That’s the objective when you’ve got a batting order that’s kind of thick. We want guys to keep the line moving and take their walks, and then when they give you one you want the other team to pay for it.”

Lowell’s home run was one of three on the night for the Red Sox, accounting for eight of their nine runs. Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run shot in the seventh and the red-hot Drew added a two-run blast in the eighth.

But it was Lowell’s home run that was the big one of the game.

“I think that was a nice swing in a big spot,” said Drew. “It was a key hit at a big-time part of the game. In that situation, Mike handled himself well.

“That’s always nice. Mike’s home run was the big one, and when you get a big hit like that it sparks the team.”

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he’d do it again.

“We make a pitch that we’d like to get back to Lowell that puts a lot of runs on the board in a hurry,” said Trembley. “So that’s the game.”

While Lowell’s slam was the big one, he had plenty of help. Youkilis went 2-for-2 and got on base four times. Drew added a double to his home run and got on base three times. Even Julio Lugo got in the act with a single and double.

“They’ve got balance,” said Trembley. “They’ve got a lot of guys in that lineup that can hurt you.”

While the Sox put nine on the board against the Orioles, the Orioles were having trouble putting any on the board against Jon Lester.

Looking more and more like a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, Lester pitched seven innings and allowed just two hits on seven hits and one walk. He struck out three.

His only rough inning was the sixth when doubles by Oscar Salazar and Aubrey Huff knocked in the O’s two runs.

“He started out today right out of the chute today, establishing his breaking ball,” said Francona. “He pounded the zone like he was in charge of the game.”

Lester has allowed three runs or less in each of his last nine starts, going 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA during that time. He’s won his last four home starts and is 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA at Fenway Park this season.

“I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well the last little while and I’ve been feeling pretty comfortable,” said Lester. “I’ve definitely learned a lot early on in the year — how to get big-league hitters out, how to set guys up, how to execute 0-2 pitches. I’ve taken some good strides.”

The victory capped a 7-2 homestand for the Red Sox, who hit the road for six games. This season, the Sox are 28-7 at home and 14-20 on the road.

“If we want to get to where we want to go, we’re going to have to play better on the road,” said Francona. “It sure has been fun being home.”

The Enterprise