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His head was in the game

Beltre started rout with slam

The Rangers’ Adrian Beltre made the rounds after he hit a grand slam in fourth inning to give the Rangers a 9-3 lead. The Rangers’ Adrian Beltre made the rounds after he hit a grand slam in fourth inning to give the Rangers a 9-3 lead. (Lm Otero/Associated Press)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 3, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas — On Opening Day, Adrian Beltre enthusiastically welcomed his former Red Sox teammates to his new home at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Before the game, Beltre jogged to the visitors’ dugout to exchange pleasantries, laughs, and hearty hugs with several players.

Some Sox, such as shortstop Marco Scutaro, even attempted a playful tap to the back of Beltre’s head. The former Sox third baseman didn’t care much for that in Boston, and it was apparent he likes it even less now that they are his former teammates.

“I had fun over there,’’ Beltre said. “They’re a bunch of great guys and I definitely enjoyed playing with those guys.’’

Last night, though, the Sox probably would have liked to knock Beltre’s block off, especially after he delivered the crushing blow in a 12-5 loss to the Rangers with a fourth-inning grand slam off John Lackey that blew the game wide open.

“I don’t wish bad to anybody, especially the guys that I played with,’’ Beltre said. “The guys I play behind, we were playing against them so, of course, I want to win. In that situation, I want to win. Probably when they play somebody else, I will cheer for them, but not against us.’’

Beltre made the Sox pay when manager Terry Francona opted to load the bases by issuing an intentional walk to Josh Hamilton, the reigning American League MVP, with one out. Hamilton, after all, was 11 for 23 against Lackey. Beltre was 9 for 52 vs. the Sox starter.

“It makes sense, because I don’t hit Lackey well,’’ Beltre said. “In that situation, probably it was the best thing the manager could have done. I’ve faced Lackey quite a bit before and he’s been tough on me. He controlled me well and today I was able to focus a little bit better in that situation, with the bases loaded and I was able to wait for a good pitch and I threw a good swing at it.’’

Said Lackey, “I was trying to go with a fastball in and left it out over the plate. I missed over the plate to A.B. It wasn’t the right pitch or the right location.’’

It traveled into a strong headwind some 387 feet over the wall in left-center.

“He’s got no pop,’’ joked Texas catcher Yorvit Torrealba.

“There’s no jet-stream homers to be had in this park,’’ said Ian Kinsler, who ignited Texas’s 15-hit barrage with a leadoff homer in the first, his second in as many games this season.

As he watched Beltre’s homer sail over the fence, Hamilton remembered thinking, “They shouldn’t have [walked me].

“He was close to where he wanted to be on Lackey’s stuff most of the night,’’ Hamilton said. “He was right where he needed to be in that particular at-bat. What’s the old saying, ‘Pick your poison?’ ’’

Evidently, the Sox were in a no-win situation.

No one tapped Beltre on the head after he crossed home plate, happy with the ninth grand slam of his career.

“Yeah, that was nice,’’ Beltre said with a smile.

But Torrealba admitted there was a reason.

“We forgot,’’ he said. “We all were so excited about the grand slam that we forgot about him. But next time, I won’t forget. That’s for sure. I won’t.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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