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Red Sox Notebook

He’s unexpectedly powerful

Ellsbury’s blast gives him team lead in HRs

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 18, 2011

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Expecting a bunt, the Blue Jays had third baseman Jayson Nix creeping in on the grass when Jacoby Ellsbury came to the plate with two runners on in the second inning yesterday.

But when Jesse Litsch left a 91-mile-per-hour fastball in the middle of the plate, Ellsbury turned on it and drove the ball deep into the red seats beyond the Pesky Pole.

The three-run blast gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead that turned into an 8-1 victory.

“Sitting on a pitch I could drive,’’ Ellsbury said. “It was something I could do something with.’’

A center fielder known for his speed, Ellsbury leads the team with three home runs. He has never hit more than nine in a season, in 2008.

Ellsbury, who hit two home runs in spring training, isn’t sure whether this power surge will last.

“Just trying to square the ball up and trying to hit the ball hard,’’ he said. “Keep things simple.’’

Scary moment Jon Lester threw a cut fastball that shattered the bat of Yunel Escobar in the third inning, producing a double-play grounder to shortstop.

It also nearly produced what might have been a terrible injury as the biggest piece of the bat, a jagged shard, flew right by Lester’s face.

“I was trying not to get hit. Turned my back and thought for sure it was going to hit me, I don’t know how I got out of the way,’’ Lester said. “I know it was pretty close.’’

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez worries about the pitcher in such situations because they are so close to the plate.

“That can be dangerous,’’ he said. “Jon was lucky.’’

Showing faith After getting Saturday off, Carl Crawford arrived at Fenway Park just after 8 a.m. and was in the batting cage soon after. But the work did not pay off. He was 0 for 4, striking out on four pitches his first time up, then grounding out three times.

Crawford is 7 for 55 (.127) with one RBI. But Terry Francona, who hit Crawford leadoff, believes his new left fielder will come around.

“We talked for a little while. I just wanted to do a couple of things: reassure him how we feel, which I think is pretty obvious, and find out if I can help, how can I help?’’ the manager said. “He actually was really good. He said he feels good.

“Once he gets going I think we all know it, I know I do, he’s going to get real hot. This is certainly not a guy who when he doesn’t hit, you run from. He’s going to be a huge part of our offense.’’

Lineup roulette Francona has used 12 batting orders in 14 games. With the team struggling for wins, there’s not much choice.

“If we had one or two lineups, that would mean everything was going right. I just don’t know if that makes sense right now,’’ he said.

“I’ve talked a lot about trying to be consistent. [But] we’re trying to do whatever we can to play as well as we can and put guys in the best position. So we’ll see.

“I do know that as you get into the season, things normally settle down.’’

Best of Beckett Josh Beckett is making some history early in the season. The righthander has gone at least seven innings and struck out at least nine while allowing no more than three hits or one run in two consecutive starts.

He is the first pitcher to do that since CC Sabathia of the Yankees in August of 2009.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last Red Sox pitcher to accomplish that was Pedro Martinez in 2002 when he did it three times in a row. Martinez also did it for two games in 1999.

Roger Clemens did it four times between 1986-92 and Cy Young once in 1905.

Bruise brothers Kevin Youkilis was hit by a changeup from Shawn Camp in the eighth inning. Youkilis has been hit 70 times in his career, one shy of matching the team record held by Mo Vaughn . . . The Jays stole a run in the second inning as Juan Rivera got in a rundown between first and second long enough for Aaron Hill to score from third. Francona said he was willing to trade the run for the out, as it ended the inning. But catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia made too quick of a throw to second. “It was one of those things where I’ve got to peek at the runner at third, and I didn’t. I just kind of saw [Rivera] with a bad jump and came up throwing,’’ he said . . . Righthanded reliever Matt Albers, on the disabled list with a sore lat, threw a perfect inning for Triple A Pawtucket in a 10-6 win over Buffalo, recording one strikeout. He threw 8 of 11 pitches for strikes.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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