With a righty on the mound in Phil Hughes and only one lefty in the Yankee bullpen, Red Sox manager Terry Francona elected to move Dustin Pedroia back into the No. 2 spot and stack his lineup with lefties. Sure enough with the score tied in the sixth inning, his counterpart Joe Girardi called on his lefty — Boone Logan.
Logan’s first assignment was Jacoby Ellsbury. The only problem was Ellsbury already had a history of success against Logan with three hits in five at-bats. The other problem is that Ellsbury has been wearing everyone out. Since June 30, Ellsbury has 32 extra base hits, 15 home runs and 45 RBIs in 52 games.
Curiously, Ellsbury had yet to hit a home run over the Monster seats. You can cross that off his to-do list as well because Ellsbury took Logan deep to left-center giving the Red Sox the lead and sending them on their way to a 9-5 victory on Wednesday night at Fenway.
Is Ellsbury an MVP candidate? Sure. More importantly, he’s become a complete player and he seems to keep adding to his game as the season rolls along. Here’s what else went right on a night when Josh Beckett entered the rarefied air of the immortal Al Nipper.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– With Ellsbury on second and two out in the third, the Yankees intentionally walked David Ortiz to face Jed Lowrie. Smart strategy in just about any situation, but Lowrie has been quietly putting together a nice run. Since Aug. 18, Lowrie had a hit in nine of his last 10 games (14-for-40). Make it 10 out of his last 11 as Lowrie ripped an RBI single to right that gave the Sox a 2-1 lead.
– As if to illustrate the logic behind Girardi’s thinking, Ortiz took Hughes deep over the center field wall his next time up. It was the 28th home run of the year for Ortiz and extended his hitting streak to 14 games — his longest streak of the season. Ortiz has the best OPS on the team and his numbers are approaching his peak seasons of 2005-07.
– Not to be lost in Ortiz’s fireworks was a two-out single by Adrian Gonzalez that set up the inning. Gonzalez has had a rough time against Yankee pitching this season and was mired in a 1-for-20 stretch against them before his timely two-out hit.
– There are two ways to look at Beckett’s outing. There was a four-run sixth (see below) and in between there were six sometimes spectacular frames. Beckett has made five starts against the Yankees this year and the Red Sox have won all of them. He’s allowed just 22 hits over 34 innings and struck out 38. He’s the first Red Sox pitcher to win four games against the Yankees since Nipper in 1987.
– Jason Varitek was both lucky and good in going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. The luck came in the sixth when his awkward half-swing resulted in a double down the vacated third base line. The good happened in the eighth when he blasted a two-run homer into the bullpen in right-center that gave the Sox some insurance runs.
– Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon retired all six batters they faced making for an uneventful eighth and ninth innings. How this for uneventful? Since July 17, Papelbon has struck out 20 batters in 17 innings without allowing a run, or a walk, while surrendering just three singles.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Beckett was great through five innings allowing just one run on four hits with seven strikeouts. But things unraveled quickly in the sixth after he hit Mark Teixeira with a wayward breaking ball to open the inning. A double, a walk and a misplay by right fielder Josh Reddick opened the door to a four-run Yankee sixth.
To put into perspective how good Beckett has been against the Yankees this season, the four runs were more than he had allowed in in his previous four starts, total.
– Reddick’s miscue in the outfield when he turned an Eric Chavez double into three bases and ultimately an unearned run, was the only real blemish on an otherwise stalwart defensive night for the Sox. Reddick may continue to get more chances in right field, however, because J.D. Drew sprained his right middle finger in a rehab outing with Pawtucket on Tuesday. It’s too early to determine if Drew’s anticipated return on Thursday from a left shoulder impingement will be delayed.