Pena's slam boosts Beckett to 5-0
Right-hander joins Ruth, Pedro in exclusive Red Sox club
BALTIMORE -- Wily Mo Pena thrust his first into the air even before he'd touched first base, and he pounded outstretched palms together in celebration during the remainder of his home run trot. When Chris Ray's pitch disappeared over the wall in left-center at Camden Yards, some of Pena's early-season frustration sailed out of the ballpark with it.
Pena's eighth-inning grand slam kept Josh Beckett's perfect April intact, as the Red Sox rallied for a 5-2 victory over the Orioles on Thursday night, completing a two-game sweep.
"I felt like I kept us in the game long enough and it was kind of like a reward," Beckett said.
Beckett (5-0) joined Babe Ruth (1917) and Pedro Martinez (2000) as the only Boston hurlers to start 5-0 in April. The right-hander, who improved to 8-1 lifetime in April, allowed two runs on eight hits over eight innings, walking none and striking out three.
"Really? Is there anybody 6-0?" manager Terry Francona asked when informed of the company Beckett was keeping. Then Francona realized it would be difficult to give Beckett another April start, considering the month has but four days left.
"No, he won't get a chance," Francona said. "I might bump him up."
It'll take Beckett some time to grow comfortable with his Red Sox teammates who have gone 5-0 in April. At least he's familiar with Martinez. Babe Ruth's pitching prowess, however, remained an unknown quantity.
"I don't know how elite Babe Ruth was as a pitcher, but he was an elite hitter," Beckett said. "Pedro Martinez was, maybe for seven or eight years there, the most dominant player."
No more dominant than Beckett's run through the first month of the season.
Beckett spotted Baltimore a 2-0 lead on a pair of leadoff doubles in the first and third innings and the first Orioles batter reached base four times in eight innings. But the right-hander persevered, growing stronger as the game-time temperature of 61 degrees dipped into the mid-50s.
"I felt better after the fifth inning," Beckett said. "It was just kind of hard for me to get going today. After the fifth inning, I felt pretty much consistent the whole time."
The Red Sox needed that steady outing until their bats, silent against Baltimore left-hander Adam Loewen, woke up against the Orioles bullpen for a second straight night.
"[Beckett] pitched a whale of a game, and it's a lot more gratifying to sit here and say we had a win attached to it," Francona said. "We were having a heck of a time scoring. Their guy [Loewen] -- I know he's young, I know he's got some walks, but he has good stuff. We couldn't mount much of an attack. We had a couple of chances because we worked the count and got his pitch count up, but we couldn't get a big hit against him."
Mike Lowell extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a ground-rule double that bounced into the stands at the left-field foul pole. Ray intentionally walked Jason Varitek to get to Pena, an unlikely hero who came into the game 1-for-20 against right-handers this year.
"I was getting frustrated," said Pena, starting because center fielder Coco Crisp has been sidelined with an oblique strain. "I think my last 20 at-bats was 19 strikeouts or something like that. I was swinging, swinging. I said to myself, 'I just have to be patient -- more patient -- because they try to get you with the slider away.'"
Pena got a hold of a 2-1 fastball from Ray and collected his third career grand slam on his second homer of the season.
"You're not going to see a lot of grand slams in that kind of fashion," Francona said. "But because the score was what it was, it meant a lot. It wasn't a hit that got us close, it put us ahead."
Pena, who was hitting .143, saw no reason to wait for the welcoming committee in the dugout. He started the celebration, congratulating himself around the bases.
"It feels good. I've been struggling and everybody knows that," Pena said. "So I just have to keep my head up. It was nice. I was happy when I was running the bases. I was happy and everybody was waiting for me to get [back to the dugout]."
Boston is 2-0 on a five-game road trip that continues with a weekend series against the Yankees in New York. Last weekend, the Red Sox swept the Yankees at Fenway Park.
The Orioles grabbed a 2-0 lead, twice parlaying leadoff doubles into runs. Brian Roberts led off the first with a double to center, stole third and scored on Nick Markakis' one-out grounder. In the third, Ramon Hernandez doubled to center, went to third on a groundout and came home on Melvin Mora's two-out double.
Loewen pitched six innings, allowing a run on two hits. He walked five and struck out five. But even before Loewen departed, Beckett sensed someone would come through with a clutch hit if he could keep the game within reach.
"There are very few pitchers that can get through our lineup three times, much less four," Beckett said. "These guys never surprise me, because I'm always expecting a big hit from somebody."
Lowell drove in a run with a sixth-inning, bases-loaded groundout.
Jonathan Papelbon worked a scoreless ninth for his seventh save.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.