By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Its hard to believe that it took five seasons for Jacoby Ellsbury to collect his first walk-off hit as a member of the Boston Red Sox, but it seems awfully appropriate that it happened this season.
So much has been magical and blessed for the Sox center-fielder in a campaign thats gone from surprising to All-Star caliber to knocking on the MVP door in the span of five months. Ellsbury penned another chapter on Tuesday night by punching a single up the middle in the bottom of the ninth inning to score pinch-runner Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and lead the Sox to a rousing 3-2 victory at Fenway Park.
It was Ellsburys first walk-off win and the first time he was tackled at first base by his jubilant teammates after the rousing win was secured on a night that included a 1-hour, 35-minute rain delay.
Youre always looking for those opportunities to win a game especially when its late with the rain delay and everything else, said Ellsbury. I was just really happy I was able to square that ball up, and that we were able to get something going there in the ninth inning.
Ellsbury finished 1-for-5 on the evening and is hitting a robust .318 on the season for the Sox, but came alive along with the rest of the offense when it finally mattered against the Cleveland bullpen. The center-fielder has delivered all season long, and teammate Jason Varitek who singled to start the ninth inning rally before giving way to Saltalamacchia says whats been seen in flashes since 2007 has finally arrived in full force.
He was a good player when he first came up," Varitek said. "He was a huge reason we won that World Series in 2007. He was as hot as could be, and he had energy and speed. His swing has really developed. Hes always had backspin and good bat speed and athleticism, and now hes gone through some changes. He can top a ball and he can drive a ball. He can do both.
Ellsbury has enjoyed a series of big hits this season for the Sox with so much offensive damage coming from the leadoff man and No. 2 hitter Dustin Pedroia this season, and everyone involved is hoping the center-fielder will get a couple more walk-off knocks before the year is up.
Hes had a lot of big hits for us, said Francona. Hell have a lot more.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia served as a pinch-runner for Jason Varitek after the Sox captain singled in the bottom of the ninth inning to start Bostons game-winning rally, and believe it or not it wasnt the first pinch-running appearance for the younger Sox catcher. Saltalamacchia pinch-ran in a game for the Rangers on June 20, 2008 in a 14-inning loss to the Washington Nationals.
This stint was a lot more memorable for Saltalamacchia, somehow motoring all the way from second base and beating Ezequiel Carreras throw to home plate on a Jacoby Ellsbury smash up the middle. Saltalamacchia got the wave to score from third base coach Tim Bogar, the affable Sox catcher said it was time to turn on the burners.
The burst of speed combined with a nice slide around home plate away from the tag were both qualities not often seen in catchers stereotyped as base-clogging outs just waiting to happen on the basepaths.
Obviously it starts with Tek getting it all started, Josh Reddick getting one to drop in and then a clutch hit by Ellsbury; I let my speed do the rest, said Saltalamacchia. I was checking out the outfield playing at regular depth, so I knew on a line drive I was probably going to be scoring. Bogie didnt hold me up, and like I said before my speed just took over.
Josh Becketts 1.99 home ERA is the lowest for a Red Sox pitcher at Fenway with at least 9 starts since former Sox ace Pedro Martinezs 1.84 ERA with Boston during his prime in the 2000 baseball season.
Dustin Pedroia won the prize for most interesting props surrounding his locker on Tuesday. The Sox second baseman was surprised to find a red, autographed Nature Boy Ric Flair wrestling robe hanging high above his locker along with a WWE wrestling belt beside it. Pedroia has always been a big fan of the 21-time wrestling champion and celebrated the gift by donning his yellow Hulk Hogan Hulkamania tank top pregame in the Sox clubhouse.
Jed Lowrie went 0-for-2 on Monday night in first rehab game with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, and followed that up on Tuesday afternoon with a 1-for-3 performance in six innings of work for the PawSox. Positive progress reports followed both games and Terry Francona said the infielder had no complaints about the former shoulder injury. Lowrie will report to Boston on Wednesday to work out with the team at Fenway, and Francona said hell be ready for big league duty shortly after playing a full nine inning game in the minors.
The one thing we have to do before we can activate him is get him into a nine inning game, said Francona. It doesnt have to be Thursday. He wouldnt be playing every day because weve got Scutaro, but I still think its important to play nine innings in a drawn out game and make sure he doesnt have any repercussions the next day.
Tim Wakefield celebrated his 45th birthday on Tuesday, and is the oldest active player in the Major Leagues. Hes also the oldest to ever appear in a game for the Red Sox and is slated to start Wednesday night while going for his 200th career victory.
Marco Scutaro was available to play Tuesday night after coming out of Mondays loss with dizziness and a racing heart beat, and was cleared after a visit with doctors for a checkup. Scutaro said he was fine and attributed the symptoms to something he drank before the game started, and pointed to a clubhouse refrigerator filled with Gatorades and energy drinks as the culprit.