Brandon Moss walked out of the shower, clutching his towel, and faced down the gaggle of reporters gathered in front of the two temporary green lockers in the middle of the clubhouse, one belonging to him, the other to Jacoby Ellsbury. He shook his head, reached in, and grabbed the clothes that hung there. He walked over to the unoccupied locker of Dustin Pedroia to dress.
"I'm going to have to talk to him about this," Moss said. "He's going to have to stop hitting bombs."
Though Ellsbury might not be swayed, his current kick has rocketed him up into the sphere of power hitter. OK, not quite. But with his two-run, fourth-inning shot into the Red Sox bullpen in a 5-3 win over Toronto last night, Ellsbury now has two homers in 31 major league at-bats after hitting just two in 436 minor league at-bats this season between Double A and Triple A.
With Josh Beckett pitching a tick better than Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, Ellsbury tried to outdo (or at least match) his Pawtucket roommate, Clay Buchholz, who happened to throw a no-hitter Saturday night. Coming up one double short of the cycle, Ellsbury demonstrated both the newfound power and the speed that have endeared him to all of Red Sox Nation, including the 36,839 in attendance last night.
Had he ever completed a cycle before?
"I don't think so," said Ellsbury, who had just the three at-bats last night. "Usually I'll miss one of them. I'll get two doubles or two triples to miss the cycle."
Two triples? "I almost had three in Double A," he said, before admitting that it's usually the home run that gets him.
"He's a strong kid," Beckett said. "I think he's learned how to hit the ball with authority. [When he first came up] you could almost see him trying to hit a ground ball the other way because everyone knew he was a fast guy. Now he's swinging the bat with authority.
"He's strong, as strong as anybody. He was feeling his way through it at first, but now he's one of our guys."
But the three-quarter cycle (single, home run, triple) might not have been possible if it weren't for Coco Crisp. After J.D. Drew opened the fourth inning with a walk, Kevin Youkilis pushed him to third base with a line single to center. Jason Varitek struck out swinging. With one out, Crisp grounded a ball to second baseman Aaron Hill, who sent it to shortstop John McDonald hoping to start the double play. With an oncoming Youkilis, McDonald relayed to Lyle Overbay just a split second too late.
Crisp was called safe. Drew scored. Next up, Ellsbury.
"It was a bang-bang play. I beat it out," Crisp said. "That's what you're supposed to do. Run the ball out. Nothing special."
Though Crisp wasn't as impressed with the play as manager Terry Francona was, it did enable Ellsbury to come up in the inning - and it seemed to upset Halladay, who might have used a bit of inappropriate language after Ellsbury's home run.
For it was the next pitch from Halladay - who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2003 back when Ellsbury was beginning his sophomore year at Oregon State - that the fill-in left fielder smashed into the bullpen. His first homer had come Sunday, with his mother in the stands. Though Margie Ellsbury was headed home by game time last night, his father and two brothers remained to see his 3-for-3 performance, one that had Toronto manager John Gibbons bringing up Grady Sizemore for comparison.
"Glad he saved 'em up," Francona said of the home runs. "He's impacting every game he plays, which is not only exciting but it's been very beneficial in us winning. He's a very exciting young player; that's stating the obvious."
With doubles by Julio Lugo and Pedroia following the homer, the Sox had a 4-0 lead that seemed secure, but only for a second. Though Beckett had allowed just four base runners in four innings (including one on an error by Lugo in the second), no Blue Jay had gotten beyond second base. Then came the top of the fifth, when a Beckett kick save (or rather, misdirection) led to an infield single for Hill. That was followed by a walk to McDonald and a three-run home run to right field by Matt Stairs that brought out the postgame censors on NESN.
Suffice it to say, Beckett wasn't exactly pleased with the changeup.
But the Blue Jays wouldn't score again, as Beckett held them to just five hits over his eight innings of work, with Youkilis adding an eighth-inning solo home run, helping to save a bullpen in which Hideki Okajima was unavailable and conventional wisdom would have dictated that Jonathan Papelbon wasn't available, either.
Except he was. Despite having pitched in two straight games, Papelbon was in for the ninth, throwing nine pitches (including a 96-mile-per-hour fastball to freeze Overbay for the final out) and earning his 33d save of the season.
But even that wasn't exactly a surprise. And the performances of Ellsbury have started to evoke simply joy rather than surprise, too.
"This last month, when I got called back from Boston to Pawtucket, I started working on using my legs," Ellsbury said. "Since then, I've been hitting the ball a lot harder. It's nice to see those results."
Not just for him. After the left oblique injury to Manny Ramírez, the replacement in left field has delivered more than could have been expected, going 8 for 12 since being recalled, perhaps a sweet taste of what the future could hold.
"We always tease Manny," Beckett said. " 'Watch out, Wally Pipp.' "
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org