BOSTON -- As good of a hitter as Mike Lowell is, Orioles manager Dave Trembley's decision in the bottom of the fifth inning last night was an easy one. With men on second and third and one out and every run precious with Jon Lester still carrying a shutout bid, Trembley had Jeremy Guthrie issue an intentional walk to Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez to load the bases.
"Lowell is 2-for-15 off [Guthrie]," Trembley said. "Who are you going to face, a guy that has hit 500 home runs in his career or are you going to try to make one pitch and try to get a double play and get to the end of the inning? I think it's a real simple option."
Indeed, it was. It just didn't work. Lowell slammed Guthrie's 0-1 slider over the Green Monster, the grand slam breaking open a 9-2 Red Sox victory in front of an announced 38,139 at Fenway Park.
Leaning on their No. 1 starter to help them to a third consecutive road series win, the Orioles watched Guthrie give up five earned runs and get knocked out of the game with two outs in the fifth inning. It was his shortest outing of the year.
First baseman Kevin Millar also got a premature exit after fouling a ball off his left knee in the second inning, a feeling that he compared to a root canal. The X-rays on his knee were negative, and Millar said he hopes to be in the lineup tonight when the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town for a three-game inter- league series. Millar's replacement, Oscar Salazar, who broke up Lester's shutout bid with a sixth-inning double, was forced from the game with leg cramps.
It all added up to a painful end to a successful road trip in which the Orioles (32-33) finished 5-4 against teams that had winning records when the series began. But after taking two of three from the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays and beating the Red Sox (42-27) in Tuesday's series opener, the Orioles were hoping for better.
"That's three pretty good teams," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "I think we walked out with a pretty good mind-set really. It obviously makes you feel a little bit better if you win the last one ... but look at the whole set of circumstances. It's pretty positive."
Over the past two nights, the Orioles were simply overpowered by the Red Sox, who hit seven homers in the series with long balls accounting for eight of their nine runs last night. Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew also hit two-run shots off Dennis Sarfate and Jamie Walker, respectively.
But it was Lowell who delivered the decisive swing.
Long before Lowell's homer, it was Boston's patience and persistence that had set the tone. By the end of the third inning, Guthrie had gone to seven three-ball counts and thrown 61 pitches. "That's their forte," Trembley said. "They do that."
Several times, Guthrie thought he had a hitter struck out and gazed in at plate umpire Scott Barry a little longer than usual. He issued five walks.
Of course, one of his walks last night was intentional. It backfired, but it was still the right move.
"We're talking about one of the best hitters to ever play the game," Roberts said. "I don't think anybody's ever going to complain about that move. Obviously Lowell is a darn good hitter, but you have to respect those that have done it the way Manny has done it."