By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Before Saturday afternoons game against the Yankees at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Terry Francona was asked about Jacoby Ellsburys power this season. A fair question considering the numbers Ellsbury has put up: a career high 18 home runs and .515 slugging percentage entering the game.
The look of distaste on Francona's face, though, said he would have preferred just about any other question.
I try to stay away from the power stuff with Ells, Francona said. Hes a strong kid, kind of wiry. But what we really care about is getting on base and kind of igniting our team. The home runs, theyre kind of a by-product of taking a lot of good swings. We dont want him to change.
Unfortunately for Francona, any more displays by Ellsbury like the one he put on against the Yankees Saturday afternoon and the manager will be answering a lot more similar questions.
Ellsbury went 2-for-4, with a three-run homer, a sacrifice fly, and a two-run double, giving him a career-high six RBI, three more than his previous high, leading the Sox to a 10-4 win and giving his team a share of first place in the American League East with the Yankees.
The six RBI are the most by a Sox leadoff hitter since Ellis Burks drove in seven runs on June 10, 1987, at Baltimore. They are the most by a Sox batter since Adrian Beltres six RBI on May 26, 2010, at Tampa Bay. The last Sox center fielder with six or more RBI in a game was Carl Everett, with six on Aug. 29, 2000, at Tampa Bay.
Ellsbury, who had a walk-off home run on Wednesday and a walk-off single on Tuesday against Cleveland, now has 19 homers this season more than No. 3 hitter Adrian Gonzalez (18).
Jacobys been a great hitter all year long and just showing that hes one of the best in the game at the lead-off spot and hes doing great things, Gonzalez said.
Ellsburys fourth-inning, two-out, three-run shot to right field came off lefty CC Sabathia just the second home run by a left-handed hitter this season off the Yankees ace.
CCs so good, I was trying to get anything to hit out over the plate and put a good swing on, Ellsbury said. Fortunately enough today we put some good swings on him.
Ellsbury, who had a third-inning sacrifice fly off Sabathia and an eighth-inning two-run single off Hector Noesi, is batting .381 (16-for-42) with five doubles, two home runs, and 13 RBI off Yankee pitching in 11 games this season.
Ellsbury is now hitting .321 with a .522 slugging percentage and .377 on-base percentage. After the game, Francona couldnt help but talk about Ellsburys power.
That was a tremendous day, Francona said. The home run, we got two outs and two on in the inning and he hits a three-run homer and spreads it out. Against a guy like CC thats pretty impressive. Then they have to play the infield in because of the score of the game and he hits the ball up the middle.
Seems like were kind of talking about him a lot. The reason is because hes doing so many good things.
After missing all but 18 games last season because of fractured ribs, Francona was unsure what he would be getting from Ellsbury this season.
Young developing players, that was our biggest concern, Francona said. He looked healthy. He looked certainly like he had a point to prove. But saying that, hitting .320 or .330 with a lot of RBIs is a difference. And hes been tremendous and you can tell hes confident.
Ellsbury, who was the target of pointed criticism last season, has maintained all year he is not trying to make a point. Whether he is trying to or not, the point is being made.
I just try to go out each and every day, have fun, he said. Were winning ball games. Its been fun playing with the guys in the clubhouse . . . It was an important game and hopefully Sunday we can win the series.
In this league you try to be as consistent as you can be and thats what I try to do. Tomorrows a new day and I know I got to go out there and try to help the team win.
Which is something he missed being able to do last year.
You want to be out there playing, he said. You want to help the team win. Thats what its all about is going out there competing with the guys and winning ball games.
It didnt matter who they were playing, you just want to be out there playing, no matter if it was a spring training game or what it is. You just want to be out there playing. Its the competition when youre out that you miss.
Whether or not hes making up for lost time, Ellsbury has made his presence known this season.
I believe in my abilities and I know what Im capable of doing, he said. I knew once the offseason hit I knew I would be ready for spring training and ready to go.
Ive always been a confident person. I just had time last year to kind of watch ballgames and learn from watching. Sometimes when youre playing you dont have that opportunity. So take advantage of when I was out and put it to my advantage.
And to the disadvantage of American League pitchers.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.