BOSTON (AP) – Julian Tavarez is making a good case for a spot in Boston’s rotation next season.

Tavarez pitched five effective innings and Mike Lowell drove in three runs to give the Red Sox a 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday .

“He’s been a breath of fresh air for us,” Boston manager Terry Francona said of Tavarez. “When we were in a time of need, he came and did a great job.”

Tavarez (5-4) allowed two runs and six hits with five walks to improve to 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA in six starts since moving into Boston’s rotation on Aug. 31. He made 52 relief appearances before being moved into the rotation when David Wells was scratched from his start and traded to the San Diego Padres.

Tavarez said he would be happy with any role next season with the Red Sox.

“I think that was the key for me, having a great game tonight, finishing strong,” Tavarez said. “They are looking at me a little different now.”

Wily Mo Pena singled in Mark Loretta in the fifth to put the Red Sox in front 3-2. Lowell followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in David Ortiz, who walked three times for the second game in a row and scored two runs. Ortiz leads the majors with 117 walks.

Erik Bedard (15-11) pitched five innings for the Orioles, allowing four runs and seven hits with four walks. He struck out three but failed in his bid to become Baltimore’s winningest pitcher since Mike Mussina won 18 games in 1999.

Manager Sam Perlozzo said Bedard had trouble gripping the ball in the 59-degree weather, affecting his control.

“That’s not Erik,” Perlozzo said. “I knew it had to be something else besides his lack of command. He just couldn’t get a feel for the baseball.”

Lowell hit a two-run double in the first to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen allowed two hits and a walk to load the bases with no outs in the seventh. But Javier Lopez got Jay Gibbons to hit into a run-scoring double play and Corey Patterson to ground out to first to end the inning.

“That was a big, a big part of the game obviously,” Francona said. “Javier did exactly what he was supposed to do.”

Mike Timlin pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save in 16 chances.

Kevin Millar, a key part of Boston’s 2004 World Series-winning team, homered in the third inning to cut it to 2-1. Gibbons drew a bases-loaded walk later in the inning to tie it.

Tavarez’s game wasn’t without a minor embarrassment.

In the third inning, with Brian Roberts standing off second base but not paying close attention, Tavarez tried to pick him off by running straight at him and diving for the tag. He was too late, but it didn’t matter because time had been called.

Tavarez said he tried to get second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s attention, and decided to try for the out himself when he couldn’t. The move worked, he said, in the minor leagues.

“Pedroia is a rookie kid, and I apologized to him, but I’m trying to get his attention,” Tavarez said. “When I’m in the game, I’m too focused on the game.”

The play drew laughs from both dugouts.

“You know what, we all got a kick out of it,” Francona said. “But I think it’s very obvious how much he wants to compete.”

B>Notes:P> Red Sox C Jason Varitek ended his streak of seven straight strikeouts with a single in the fifth inning. … The Red Sox announced an attendance of 36,269 – their 305th consecutive sellout – though hundreds of seats were empty as the Sox finished up their first non-playoff season since 2002. The season attendance of 2,858,346 is a new franchise record – the seventh consecutive season Boston has set an attendance record. … Baltimore SS Miguel Tejada singled in the second inning to set an Orioles franchise record with his 212th hit of the year. The old mark of 211 was set by Cal Ripken Jr. in his MVP season of 1983. “Breaking Cal Ripken’s record, I’m really happy to do it. Cal Ripken is every kid’s favorite player. The way he played the game – he’s a real gentleman,” Tejada said.

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