BOSTON — David Ortiz has hit his share of home runs in Fenway Park. Now, he’s enjoying seeing younger players like Ryan Kalish come through.
Kalish hit a grand slam, Ortiz had a two-run shot and Jon Lester pitched six solid innings to lead the Boston Red Sox over Tampa Bay 12-5 Monday night, preventing the Rays from climbing closer in the AL East race.
“We have a lot of young guys coming in here that have talent,” Ortiz said, flashing a smile when he talked about Kalish, a rookie.
Adrian Beltre added a solo homer for Boston, swept in a three-game series by the Chicago White Sox last weekend.
The Rays lost their third straight and remained 2½ games behind the first-place New York Yankees, who lost to Baltimore 4-3 earlier in the day.
Boston moved within 6½ games of Tampa Bay in the wild-card standings.
Lester (16-8) gave up two runs and four hits while striking out 10 and walking three for his fifth win in six decisions.
The Red Sox took control by scoring three runs in each of the first two innings, and broke it open when Kalish hit his slam in a five-run fourth.
Kalish seemed almost as happy to see many former Triple-A Pawtucket teammates as he was about his homer.
“It’s fun to look around here. I like it,” he said. “It shows that everybody’s been working real hard.”
Ortiz and Beltre hit consecutive homers three pitches apart in the first to put the Red Sox ahead 3-1.
In the second, Victor Martinez had a two-run single to chase Jeff Niemann (10-6). Ortiz greeted Andy Sonnanstine with a double off the Green Monster, making it 6-1.
Niemann got just five outs, getting tagged for six runs, four hits and three walks. He’s been roughed up in all three starts since coming off the disabled list from a strained shoulder on Aug. 25, allowing 23 runs in 16 2-3 innings.
He said he didn’t feel any problems with his shoulder.
“Yeah, everything is fine. Just couldn’t do what I wanted with the ball,” Niemann said. “Command was off big-time and went to a lot of bad counts and they were sitting on some pitches. We’ve been working hard to try and find out what’s going on and we feel great.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he wasn’t considering taking Niemann out of the rotation yet.
“He’s just having a hard time commanding his fastball, which truly is his strong point. That is just going to take some time,” Maddon said. “You do that by just working out in the bullpen and throwing the ball to your spots and when you get in the game, executing your game plan. I would say some of it has to do just between the ears a bit, just getting your confidence back.”
Boston turned it into a rout by adding five runs off Sonnanstine in the fourth. After loading the bases on singles by Daniel Nava and J.D. Drew and a two-out intentional walk to Beltre, Sonnanstine walked Jed Lowrie to force home a run before Kalish belted his slam into the Rays’ bullpen in right, making it 11-2. It was his second grand slam of the season, tying a club record for rookies held by six others.
“Oh, man, what a good swing,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “Sonnanstine, at the time, seemed like he was having trouble controlling. He got a cutter a little over the plate.”
The Rays scored three runs in the seventh to cut it to 11-5 against reliever Robert Coello, making his major league debut. Scott Atchison came in and got Reid Brignac and Rocco Baldelli to pop out to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Coello gave up three hits and two walks while retiring just one batter.
Carl Crawford’s RBI single gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead in the first.
NOTES: Bob Zupcic was the previous Red Sox rookie with two grand slams in a season, doing it in 1992. … Francona didn’t come right out and say it, but he indicated that All-Star RHP Clay Buchholz will pitch Wednesday only if Boston wins the first two games of the three-game series. “I think we reserve the right to see how we do,” he said. “I think it’s obvious what I’m saying there. The plan now is to pitch Buch.” … Rays slugger Carlos Pena is 0 for 19 since homering in consecutive games Aug. 29 and 30. … The Rays recalled Sonnanstine before the game from Class-A Hudson Valley. He was sent down to make room for OF Brad Hawpe on Aug. 31. … Boston SS Marco Scutaro is scheduled to have an MRI on his right shoulder Tuesday. It’s been bothering him for about a month.