Notes: Ellsbury continues on torrid stretch


Notes: Ellsbury continues on torrid stretch

By Joe Haggerty 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.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner


Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”