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Ellsbury right back on track

He's a threat in field, at bat

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 25, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas - The season’s first three games were a small sample of Jacoby Ellsbury’s enormous talent and potential. He hit .250 (3 for 12) with two RBIs, a double, and a home run in that season-opening, three-game nightmare back in April here at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where the Red Sox lost by a combined score of 26-11.

But it was only three games.

“I mean, we don’t put too much stock in three games,’’ Ellsbury said. “We know if we play good baseball, good things will happen.’’

Things such as last night’s 13-2 romp over the Rangers before a sullen crowd of 30,724, who watched the Sox pound out 16 hits, including two-run homers by Ellsbury (No. 23) in the sixth inning, Carl Crawford (No. 9) in the seventh, and Adrian Gonzalez (No. 21) in the eighth.

While his first three games didn’t give a complete picture of what he meant to the Sox lineup, these last two wins over the Rangers - by a combined score of 24-7 - were more of an accurate depiction of Ellsbury’s impact. He went 3 for 5 with three runs and a pair of RBIs (his 80th and 81st of the season) with his 380-foot homer to right off Yoshinori Tateyama.

Then there were the spectacular catches he made, robbing Mike Napoli of an extra-base hit on one by tracking down a fly at the warning track, and his dangerous speed with his 35th stolen base of the season in the second inning enabling him to score on Dustin Pedroia’s single to left.

“He’s hitting the ball out of the ballpark, he’s stealing bases, he’s making plays defensively,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “He impacts the game all over the place. That’s what good players do.’’

Ellsbury, who was voted an All-Star for the first time in his career this season, has emerged as a viable candidate for MVP honors along with Pedroia and Gonzalez.

“There’s not a whole lot of guys in all of baseball who are like Jacoby, a guy who can hit for average, power, and who’s got 80-some RBIs out of the leadoff spot,’’ said Sox starter Josh Beckett. “You throw him in the 3-hole on any team and you’re looking at 105-110 RBIs already.’’

Asked how he would decide the MVP vote on his team, Beckett replied, “It’s going to be tough, but I’m glad that I don’t vote on that.’’

Ellsbury’s importance to the team was evident after he missed three games recovering after getting hit in the back Aug. 19 at Kansas City, where he went 1 for 3 with an RBI and one run scored.

He arrived in Texas Monday and was champing at the bit to get back in the lineup, but Francona gave him an extra day to rest and recuperate.

“I thought it was good we waited,’’ Francona said. “We gave him a couple of days and [did] not rush him back. We wanted him to go out there and do what he can do and not worry about his back hurting. I’m sure it’s still sore, but he can do what he can do.’’

That much was evident when the Sox suffered a 4-0 shutout Monday night, with leadoff hitter Marco Scutaro going 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts.

Ellsbury returned to the lineup for Tuesday night’s 11-5 romp and reached on a single to right, stole second, and went to third on Scutaro’s sacrifice bunt. He scored the first run on the first of Gonzalez’s two homers that night.

“Yeah, I wasn’t concerned,’’ Ellsbury said of the layoff. “It was just three games. You know in the [grand] scheme of the season, it’s not that many games, but at the same time you want to get out there as soon as possible. But three games can seem like an eternity in baseball, too.

“I knew I’d be ready to go once I hit the field and that was never a concern for me. I just wanted to set the tone on the first pitch and I think I ended up on third, or scoring, on four pitches.

“So that’s definitely a good start.’’

And that’s precisely what the Red Sox have been getting from Ellsbury out of the leadoff position.

“Yeah, I try to get rolling, from the first pitch,’’ he said. “I just try to set the tone for the game.’’

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