Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
Jackie MacMullan

Ellsbury a hit from the get-go

Post game wrap up with Jackie MacMullan; WS; baseball;; red sox; sports; video page;

DENVER - The Kid silently recited the mantra, even as the groundswell of support from fervent Red Sox fans threatened to drown out all reason.

Jacoby Ellsbury was the overwhelming People's Choice, and once it became apparent midway through the American League Championship Series against Cleveland that center fielder Coco Crisp was so tight he was about to snap in half, Ellsbury became the manager's choice, too.

And yet, even with his name penciled into the starting lineup, even with his popularity surging to Ortizian levels, Ellsbury astutely identified the trappings of adulation before it is truly earned.

Surely he was an electric call-up in September, and by hitting safely in 27 of his first 32 major league games (including a 13-game hitting streak), he represented scintillating possibilities. He is a wonderful blend of youth and speed and exuberance.

But this was the World Series. What had he done on such a grand stage? He knew the answer: nothing quite yet. And so he cautioned himself accordingly: do not project too far into the future.

There are occasions when pushing a young player into the spotlight before he is ready can be catastrophic (see Calvin Schiraldi, circa 1986). This was one of many worries that left manager Terry Francona's nights sleepless and his eyes bleary and bloodshot.

If the Kid failed, how would he cope?

With the Red Sox just one win from their second World Series championship in four seasons, the manager can now officially cross that particular concern off his list.

That happens when your rookie delivers the biggest hit of the night.

Ellsbury stepped to the plate with two on and one out in the eighth. The previous inning, he had watched in disbelief, along with his teammates, a 6-0 lead all but evaporated. That was disconcerting enough, but the fact it was the Game 2 hero, Hideki Okajima, that served up a three-run shot to Matt Holliday made for some queasy moments.

So now Ellsbury's team was clinging to a 6-5 advantage, and he was in position to reestablish some breathing room. He inhaled, took ball one from reliever Brian Fuentes, then stepped out to exhale. (Breathing tends to be important in these situations.)

The Kid stepped back in, locked himself in, then roped a shot to right field. Brad Hawpe charged and slid toward the ball, but it took a bad Hawpe for the Rockies (sorry, couldn't resist) and bounced inside the line. Fair ball. Julio Lugo motored home from first, and Ellsbury was safe at second with his third - that's right, his third - double of the night.

As a collection of jubilant Red Sox veterans went wild in the dugout, the other rookie, Dustin Pedroia, added more credence to the Youth Movement by stroking a double of his own. Two more runs scored, and that tight 6-5 ballgame was suddenly a healthy 9-5 affair.

When this rollicking 10-5 ride finally ended, giving Boston a commanding 3-0 Series lead, Ellsbury jogged off the field having gone 4 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs. He became just the third rookie in World Series history to have four hits in a game, the first since the St. Louis Cardinals' Joe Garagiola went 4 for 5 against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 1946 World Series.

That would be 61 years ago.

You may have forgotten that earlier in this Series, Ellsbury was 1 for 7. He drew walks in each of those games, yet despite his offensive struggles, he did not falter.

"We brought him in in a difficult situation in Game 6, Game 5, whatever against Cleveland and he played with a lot of confidence," Francona said. "And he should play with a lot of confidence, he's a good player. It's not false bravado. He knows how to play the game."

"I felt much more pressure in Game 6 [against the Indians] than tonight," Ellsbury said.

Last night, with the DH out of the mix and David Ortiz at first base and Kevin Youkilis on the bench, Francona altered his batting order. He moved regular leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia into the No. 2 spot, where Youkilis normally hits. And he put Ellsbury where we all knew he'd end up: in the leadoff spot.

It's perverse, really, to discuss next season or beyond in the midst of a World Series that is not over, but c'mon, admit it: you have seen the future of the top of the order in Boston, and it's Ellsbury and Pedroia. They became the first rookies to occupy the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in a World Series game, and it's quite possible they have started a trend.

Go young, old men. The Kids are all right.

And Jacoby Ellsbury truly is just as electric as we thought.

Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at

More from