HPHILADLEPHIA -- There have been hints before that Jacoby Ellsbury was turning around his season.
On the Red Sox' last road trip, he reached base six times in the span of two games against the Chicago White Sox.
Then, last weekend, he delivered a walkoff, two-run double to help the Red Sox finish off a ninth-inning comeback against the Cleveland Indians.
But if Ellsbury is going to have the kind of season the Red Sox hoped, perhaps it will be Thursday night that keys the real turnaround.
In Boston's 9-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, Ellsbury reached base in each of his first five plate appearances. Once on base, the real fun began, with Ellsbury swiping five bases, the most in a single game in Red Sox history.
"Tonight, singlehandedly, he changed the game," marveled manager John Farrell, "not only getting on base but the five stolen bases. He was a dynamic leadoff hitter."
"Getting on that many times," said Ellsbury, "you want to take advantage of being on and put pressure on the defense and try to score as many times as possible."
Ironically, the only run Ellsbury scored was produced without the help of a steal. He singled to lead off the game, went to third on a single by Daniel Nava and rode home on a groundout.
But the fact that the steals didn't translate into any more runs didn't take away from the achievement.
"It's pretty neat (to own the record)," he said. "For as long as the Red Sox have been around, to have a single-game record like that is pretty special."
With two steals already to his credit by the time he came to the plate in the top of the eighth, Ellsbury was further motivated when he got plunked by a pitch from Jeremy Horst in the sixth, in apparent retaliation for Jonny Gomes' slow trot around the bases after a pinch-hit homer immediately before Ellsbury.
"That definitely lit a fire a little bit," acknowledged Ellsbury. "I know I was definitely trying to get to third. I didn't say anything. I just took my base. Whether it was intentional or not, I don't know."
The final steal of the night gave him 21 for the season -- tops in the American League -- in 23 attempts.
Beyond the steals, Ellsbury is seemingly coming alive at the plate. In his last five games, Ellsbury has four multi-hit games and lifted his batting average to a more respectable .268.
"It feels good," said Ellsbury. "It's been feeling good for a little while. It's just nice some balls have been falling and getting up the middle and hitting some holes. I'll just continue with that approach. I knew it was just a matter of time before stuff like that starts falling.
"You just continue to grind out ABs when things aren't going well. I knew that over the long haul, good things are going to happen when you work hard, stay confident in yourself and have a good plan at the plate."