Beltre shows off power play

Adrian Beltre was in the swing — belting a solo home run in the second here — with two homers, six RBIs, and a 4-for-5 night. Adrian Beltre was in the swing — belting a solo home run in the second here — with two homers, six RBIs, and a 4-for-5 night. (Steve Nesius/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 27, 2010

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Several Red Sox got into a discussion yesterday about which player had the most power. The consensus settled on Adrian Beltre.

According to Bill Hall, all were surprised Beltre had only three home runs given his strength.

“You watch guys taking batting practice and he definitely has the most power on the team,’’ Hall said. “There are a couple of guys who are a close second.’’

A few hours later, Beltre demonstrated that ability by driving in six runs with two home runs and a triple as the Sox completed a three-game sweep of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays with an 11-3 victory.

Beltre gave the Sox the lead with a solo home run deep to left field in the second inning. Then in the third inning, with two on, he waited on a curveball from Matt Garza and drove it over the fence in left on a line.

Beltre reached down to get to the pitch and followed through so completely that he ended up on one knee in the batter’s box.

“First time I’ve seen somebody hit a home run off one knee,’’ Jeremy Hermida said. “That was impressive.’’

Beltre added a single in the seventh and a two-run triple to the gap in right field in the ninth inning. That ball landed at the base of the wall, a few feet from a third home run.

The 12 total bases were the most for a Red Sox player since Kevin Millar hit three homers against the Yankees July 23, 2004. Beltre is 16 for his last 31, raising his average to .341. He leads the Sox with 33 RBIs.

“I wouldn’t call it a groove, but I feel OK,’’ Beltre said.

Mike Cameron, dressing in an adjacent locker, let out a laugh.

Beltre also made the latest in a series of outstanding defensive plays in the second inning when he raced in from third to field a bunt from Sean Rodriguez and made an off-balance throw to first base.

“The guy is gifted with a great arm and he works hard at those plays every day,’’ said catcher Jason Varitek. “We’ve seen him do that against us over the years. It’s what we all expected.’’

With J.D. Drew and Victor Martinez out with injuries, Beltre hit fifth last night for the only the third time this season. He has hit either sixth or seventh in most games.

That’s a change from his five years in Seattle, where Beltre usually hit fourth or fifth and was counted on to produce runs. Playing in Safeco Field, a poor park for righthanded hitters, made that difficult.

“That place crushed his numbers,’’ said Hall, who spent part of last season with the Mariners. “He was working through some injuries, too. I think. They expected a lot out of him in Seattle and it wasn’t that great of a team, obviously. Boston is good for him. There’s less pressure on him. That helps anybody.’’

The surprise is that Beltre is hitting for average and has a .372 on-base percentage. The Red Sox were expecting the defense and power, not the plate discipline.

“He’s hitting balls all over the field. He’s swinging with aggression,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “He’s hitting it to right, he’s hitting to center; he’s hitting it to left. It’s fun to watch.’’

Being part of a deeper lineup, Beltre said, has helped him as a hitter.

“I’m probably more patient than I have been in a long time. That’s usually not me,’’ he said. “I’m watching the other guys we have and it has been good for me.’’

Beltre last drove in six runs July 27, 2000 when he was a 21-year-old playing for the Dodgers. Asked if he remembered that game, Beltre correctly guessed that it was in Colorado.

“I love that place,’’ said Beltre, a .394 hitter at Coors Field with 15 homers and 60 RBIs over 55 games.

Reminded that the Sox will play three games in Denver starting June 22, Beltre smiled.

“Can’t wait,’’ he said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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