SWEPT AWAY BY A "RALLY MONKEY" ...
Ellsbury has a night for the ages

June 23, 2009 ... The Red Sox bludgeoned the Washington Nationals, because they could. Before a record crowd and in thick summer heat, the Red Sox and Nationals played seven taut innings of baseball before the Red Sox asserted their dominance and ran away with an 11-3 victory. The Sox scored six runs in the eighth inning off the Nationals' bullpen, rendering their precision for the bulk of the evening a lesson for baseball's worst team.

The 41,517 attending will remember Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury the most. They drove in six runs combined and smashed eight of the Red Sox' season-high 17 hits. The victory sent the Sox a season-best five games up on the second-place Yankees in the American League East.

Ellsbury merely had one of the best games of his career. He reached base all five times he stepped to the plate, two triples (one off the top of the center-field fence, one scalded into the right-center gap), two singles (one that didn't leave the infield), and a walk. He scored one run, drove in three, and stole a base, too.

On May 31, manager Terry Francona moved Ellsbury out of the leadoff slot because, with his .332 on-base percentage, he was not getting on base enough. Ellsbury has reached base in 31 of his 69 plate appearances since, a .449 clip. He has 10 walks over that span, all as the first batter. In the 17 games Ellsbury has played outside the leadoff slot, the Sox are 12-5.

Bay blasted a solo homer, smoked three singles, drove in three runs, and scored three. He turned the game from edge-of-the-seat to empty-the-seats with a bases-loaded, two-run single to left in the eighth, starting a six-run onslaught that included Ellsbury's two-run triple.

No one would argue the talent level in either dugout is anything but disparate. But last night's outcome came about in part because, at each pivotal moment, the Red Sox did small things that help a team win night after summer night and the Nationals did things that help a team lose night after summer night.

The Red Sox took the lead, for the third and final time, in the seventh after a rally that began with the Nationals' league-high 65th error. Washington starter John Lannan exited after striking out J.D. Drew for the third time, leaving the bases empty and one out for former Red Sox reliever Julian Tavarez. Kevin Youkilis grounded to third base, which, when a team is 20-48, can manage to be the beginning of the end. Ryan Zimmerman picked up the ball and fired to first, a short hop that Nick Johnson could not handle. The ball trickled away, and Youkilis stood on first base. Bay rolled a single through the left side. Youkilis dashed to second and watched Adam Dunn lumber toward the ball. There is a difference between a fast base runner and a good base runner, and Youkilis is the dictionary example of the latter.  The Nationals intentionally walked Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek belted a sacrifice fly to Dunn.

It was obscured an inning later, but consider how the winning run scored: A routine play botched, an intelligent base running maneuver, a plain sacrifice fly. In baseball, the difference between the worst teams and the best teams is often reduced to small things done well.

The Nationals entered the evening one game off the pace of the 1962 New York Mets for the worst record in baseball's modern era, but also having won four of six against the Yankees and Blue Jays, the Sox' AL East brethren. The Nationals are deeply flawed, but probably not as historically atrocious as their record indicates.

The Red Sox have reached a high-water mark, having won three games in a row, five of their last seven, and 10 of their last 13. They may well be the best team in baseball, capable of taking a club apart piece by piece or hammering them, both in a single game.

 

at Nationals Park (Washington, DC) ...

R

H

E

BOSTON RED SOX

0

1

0

1

1

0

1

6

1

 

11

17

0

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

1

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

 

3

8

1

W-Manny Delcarmen (2-1)
L-Julian Tavarez (3-5)
Attendance 41,517


2B-Pedroia (2)(Bost), Youkilis (Bost),
Dunn (Wash), Harris (Wash)
3B-Ellsbury (2)(Bost)
HR-Bay (Bost)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AB

R

H

AVG

 

 

Dustin Pedroia 2b 6 2 3 .290  

 

J.D. Drew rf 3 1 0 .254  

 

Takashi Saito p 0 0 0 .000  

 

Mark Kotsay ph 1 0 0 .250  

 

Daniel Bard p 0 0 0 .000  

 

Kevin Youkilis 1b 5 2 2 .318  

 

Jason Bay lf 6 3 4 .286  

 

Mike Lowell 3b 5 0 1 .286  

 

Jason Varitek c 4 1 1 .228  

 

Dusty Brown c 0 0 0 .000  

 

Jacoby Ellsbury cf 4 1 4 .311  

 

Nick Green ss 4 0 1 .292  

 

Brad Penny p 3 0 0 .000  

 

M Delcarmen p 0 0 0 .000  

 

Hideki Okajima p 0 0 0 .000  

 

Rocco Baldelli ph/rf 2 1 1 .279  
               
    IP H ER BB SO  
  Brad Penny 5.2 6 3 3 6  
  M Delcarmen 0.1 0 0 1 0  
  Hideki Okajima 1 0 0 0 0  
  Takashi Saito 1 0 0 1 2  
  Daniel Bard 1 2 0 1 0  

 

 

         

 

 

 

2009 A.L. EAST STANDINGS

 

 

BOSTON RED SOX 43 27 -

 

 

New York Yankees 38 32 5

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays 39 33 5

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays 37 35 7

 

 

Baltimore Orioles 32 38 11