Ellsbury’s two-run single in seventh gives Francona 1,000th win
Just when it appeared the celebration of Terry Francona’s 1,000th career managerial win might have to be put on hold, Jacoby Ellsbury turned the mood at Fenway Park from funereal to festive with one swing of his bat.
Ellsbury ripped a two-run single up the middle with two outs in the seventh to give the Sox all the runs they would need in last night’s 3-1 victory over the Mariners before a Fenway Park crowd of 38,115.
“I was just trying to get a pitch I could drive in that situation,’’ said Ellsbury, who drove in Jason Varitek, whose two-out single sparked the rally, and Marco Scutaro, whose ground-rule double to right put men in scoring position.
“[Ellsbury’s] been good in all situations,’’ Francona said. “But he’s pretty special right now. And then he’s got the guy behind him [Dustin Pedroia] and you know they don’t want to face him, so it’s exciting to watch.’’
Given the situation, and what it meant to his manager, Ellsbury seemed especially demonstrative when he reached first base.
“We come out every game trying to win, regardless of what’s on the line,’’ said Ellsbury, who wound up scoring the third run when he went to third on Pedroia’s single up the middle and came home on Aaron Laffey’s wild pitch. “But, obviously, it’s a special win for him and we want to come out and always put our best foot forward.’’
Francona, ever humble, tried to downplay the milestone. He preferred to focus the attention on the players, the organization, and last night’s victory, which pinned the Mariners with a franchise-record 14 consecutive losses and improved the Sox to 61-37, extending their lead over the Yankees in the American League East to three games.
“I’m just glad to win any way,’’ said Francona, who was congratulated in front of the Sox dugout by owner John Henry and later doused with beer by David Ortiz in the clubhouse.
The three-run outburst in the seventh - a decisive inning in which the Sox have outscored the opposition this season, 93-33 - sent Mariners starter Blake Beavan (1-2) packing after an impressive 6 2/3 innings of work. It also made a winner of Sox starter Josh Beckett (9-3, 2.07 ERA), who threw six scoreless innings before giving up his only run in the seventh on a leadoff homer by Mike Carp.
“Beckett was tremendous,’’ Francona said. “The 3-and-2 cutter that kind of wandered over the plate, got hit for the home run. He pitched out of a little bit of a mess at the end, but he was tremendous.’’
The Sox encountered some difficulty against the imposing 6-foot-7-inch, 240-pound Beavan, a 22-year-old righthander from Irving, Texas, who was making his fourth major league start.
Beavan scattered six hits through his first six innings and worked efficiently, throwing 66 pitches through the first five. “He had a sneaky fastball,’’ Ellsbury said.
The Sox threatened a couple of times early. In the second, Ortiz led off with a double to left and took third on Carl Crawford’s single to right.
After Josh Reddick popped to center, Varitek did the same. Ortiz tagged up, but got nailed at the plate on a strong throw by Franklin Gutierrez.
“You gotta send David,’’ Francona said. “The guy made a great throw and it’s bang-bang at the plate.’’
With one out in the third, Ellsbury singled to left and advanced to second on Carp’s fielding error.
That was as far as Ellsbury got, though, as Pedroia, who doubled in the first to extend his career-high hitting streak to 20 games, grounded to short and Adrian Gonzalez fouled out to Carp in left.
Both pitchers worked their way out of jams in the sixth.
Ichiro Suzuki and Brendan Ryan led off with singles. Dustin Ackley grounded to Pedroia, but the Sox second baseman hesitated, allowing
Beckett buckled down and struck out Justin Smoak with an 88-mile-per-hour changeup and then got out of the inning when he induced Adam Kennedy to pop out to second.
Beavan was tested in the bottom half when Gonzalez hit a ground-rule double to right with one out.
However, the Sox slugger committed a costly gaffe on Kevin Youkilis’s hard ground ball to third. Kennedy cleanly fielded it and began to go to first but spied Gonzalez between second and third and made the tag at third for an unassisted out.
“Gonzy, probably it was ill-advised,’’ Francona said. “If the ball goes by the third baseman, he’s going to score anyway. He just got out ahead of himself a little bit.’’
Ortiz hit a towering pop to left to end the inning.
The Mariners broke through in the seventh when Carp, who hit his first homer of the season with a three-run shot Friday night off Franklin Morales, hit a solo homer.
Beckett struck out DH Jack Cust looking with his 100th pitch but continued to labor when Gutierrez’s flare to right fell harmlessly between Pedroia, Ellsbury, and right fielder Josh Reddick. After Gutierrez got to third on a stolen base and a groundout, Beckett walked Suzuki, drawing a visit from pitching coach Curt Young.
Beckett escaped thanks to some terrific defense from Youkilis, who made a diving stop of Ryan’s sharply hit ground ball, jumped to his feet and made the throw to first for the out that ended Beckett’s night after 118 pitches.
Daniel Bard entered in the eighth and put his streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings at risk when he loaded the bases.
“He got himself into that bind and got himself right out of it,’’ Francona said. “Not too many guys can do that. That was impressive.’’
After Ackley singled to left and Smoak walked, Kennedy laid down a bunt and reached when Bard tried to get Ackley at third. But umpire Eric Cooper ruled Youkilis’s foot had come off the bag, loading the bases.
Bard, however, pitched his way out of the jam when he got Carp to fly out to left, froze Cust on a 83-m.p.h. backdoor slider, and got Gutierrez to ground to third.
Jonathan Papelbon came on for the ninth and recorded his 23d save to put the wraps on Francona’s milestone victory.
“I don’t think it’s that big a deal, I really don’t,’’ Francona said. “I’m appreciative of the opportunity that I have, because I really caught a break. This is a great organization with a lot of really great players and I’m really fortunate.’’