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Glaring effort by Ellsbury

Outlook is sunny as he gets four hits

Francona on win, Ellsbury

Red Sox manager Terry Francona talks about Wednesday's 18-5 triumph over the Minnesota Twins, including the importance of Jacoby Ellsbury getting on base with a career-high four hits.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Barbara Matson
Globe Staff / July 10, 2008

In the midst of the Red Sox' unruly 18-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins yesterday at Fenway Park, Jacoby Ellsbury proved nearly insatiable, stacking up a career-high four hits like pancakes on a plate.

It was the first four-hit game by a Red Sox rookie outfielder since Trot Nixon did it May 22, 1999, against Toronto, and for Ellsbury, it was the eighth time this season he has had at least three hits. He nearly got a fifth in the eighth inning, cracking a sharp line drive at shortstop Nick Punto.

But just about everyone in the Sox' lineup was collecting hits against the Twins. What Ellsbury did, in the middle innings when the outcome of the game was still in question, was run the bases with savvy and speed, setting up the Sox for their Brobdingnagian afternoon, and the Twins for their unraveling.

In the sixth, with the Sox leading only 6-5, Ellsbury connected for a double to right field. In a night game, under the lights at Fenway, it might have been a fairly routine fly ball. But with the afternoon sun glaring brightly, right field was a crap shoot, and Ellsbury knew it.

He bolted for first as soon as he hit the ball, and kept on going, landing safely at second when the ball dropped beyond the grasp of Jason Kubel's outstretched left hand in right-center. Ellsbury sped to third on Dustin Pedroia's fly to right and scored on Kevin Youkilis's long fly to right, giving the Sox a two-run cushion.

"You look at how we play, a lot of that's directly correlated to him getting on base," said manager Terry Francona. "When he's hot, when he's on base, we're a different team. They have to recognize his speed, his ability to run the bases. It makes [Pedroia] a better hitter. We're a different team when he's on base."

"I knew the sun was bad out there, just from talking to [Sox right fielder Brandon Moss]," said Ellsbury. "When you know the sun's bad out there, you're hustling out of the box. You never know what's going to happen - you don't want to get stuck on first base if you've hit the ball far enough."

There was more smart base running from the 24-year-old Ellsbury in the seventh, a seven-run bonanza for the Sox. After singling in Sean Casey to make it 9-5 and load the bases, Ellsbury nearly ran down Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo getting home from first on Pedroia's double to left.

Ellsbury is 12 for 31 in his last nine games, a gaudy .387.

"He's a good hitter," said Francona. "Guys go through periods when they're not. That's why everybody doesn't hit .300; it's hard to do. You run into periods where you don't see the ball well or bad luck or both, you try to do too much, then you get a couple of hits and relax and feel good about yourself."

Ellsbury must be feeling fine. He singled in his first and second trips to the plate, rapped a fly ball to the track in right field, then hit the double to center and singled in the seventh to round out his 4-for-6 afternoon.

"The last two days, I've felt really good at the plate," said Ellsbury. "The last week, I've felt good. It's nice to get [the hits]. Hitting can be contagious. It gets the other guys going and gets you going. It's nice to put that many runs on the board as a team."

Barbara Matson can be reached at matson@globe.com.

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