Ellsbury comes through in clutch for Sox

Ellsbury comes through in clutch for Sox
May 26, 2013, 8:15 pm
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BOSTON – Jacoby Ellsbury has been struggling in the lead-off spot this season, batting just .245 entering Sunday’s game. Manager John Farrell gave him a day off last week (as he has with all his players, except Dustin Pedroia, in this stretch of 20 straight games). If Shane Victorino had not gone on the disabled list Friday, there is a good likelihood Ellsbury could have been dropped in the lineup, with Victorino taking the top spot.
 
Before the ninth inning on Sunday, he had little to show for his efforts in the game, except a sixth-inning single, and a first-inning error that led to two runs.
 
But, with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon in the season-series finale against the Indians, Ellsbury, the eighth batter of the inning, came up on the exact right spot. His two-run double delivered the Sox a 6-5 walk-off win.
 
It was Ellsbury’s fourth game-winning hit, but this one was a little unorthodox. Chris Perez started the inning, struggling from the get-go. By the time he got to Ellsbury, he was in full-implosion mode. After his third pitch to Ellsbury, he walked off the mound, as Indians manager Terry Francona and trainers rushed from the dugout.
 
Perez attempted to throw a warm-up pitch. But when he sailed it to the backstop, he was done.
 
Joe Smith entered from the bullpen into an extremely difficult position for a reliever: A 2-and-1 count to the batter, bases loaded, his teaming holding a shaky one-run lead.
 
“I’ve never really been in that situation,” Ellsbury said. “But I know him coming in his mindset is to throw a strike and try to make it 2-2. I figured I’d be aggressive, if I got my pitch.
 
“They’re very different pitchers. You have a few less pitches to make the adjustment, work the count. So yeah it’s a different scenario. Makes it harder. But I figured he would throw a strike and I’d try to hit something hard.”
 
Ellsbury didn’t have to wait. He needed just one pitch from Smith to deliver the win.
 
It was Ellsbury's fourth career walk-off hit, and first since Sept. 11, 2012 (his birthday) against the Yankees. Three  of his four walk-off hits have come against the Indians, including back-to-back games in 2011, a single on Aug. 2 and a home run – also off Smith – on Aug. 3.
 
Ellsbury has driven in the game-winning run in each of Boston’s last three walk-off wins against the Indians.
 
“I faced him the other night,” Ellsbury said of Smith. “Anytime you’ve faced a guy before it helps. But I’ve never been in that situation in the middle of an at-bat, [2-and-1] count, bases loaded, game on the line. His mindset would have to be attack the hitter. Last thing he wants to do is walk me, push the tying run across. I’m just trying to be aggressive in the zone, look for a pitch I can drive and fortunately I got it and put a good swing on it.”
 
Perhaps this game – Ellsbury went 2-for-5, with two RBI and is now hitting .249 – can serve as a springboard for him at the plate?
 
“Yeah, you just got to stay confident,” he said. “Stay with the approach and good things will happen. Trying to get good ABs every day and hopefully good things will happen.”
 
As they did in the ninth inning. Walk-off wins never get old.
 
“Not really,” he said. “It’s exciting. The goal to start the game is to win the game, to come up huge for my team it’s a great feeling. Guys did a great job allowing me to be in a position to do that.”