PHILADELPHIA — Jacoby Ellsbury left Citizens Bank Ballpark tonight with an unexpected souvenir — second base.
The Red Sox center fielder stole a team-record five bases in a 9-2 victory against the Phillies. When he returned to the clubhouse, he learned the Phillies sent over a base as a memento.
“It’s pretty neat. I wasn’t expecting that,” Ellsbury said. “I’ll put it in the house.”
What a turnaround. If Shane Victorino had been healthy 10 days ago, John Farrell might have hit him leadoff and dropped Ellsbury down. Ellsbury was struggling to get on base and had become a detriment to the offense. But without a suitable replacement, Ellsbury remained where he was.
“There was a lot of talk of getting him out of the leadoff spot,” Farrell said. “But felt like we started to see some signs of it coming. We stayed with him.”
Ellsbury had three hits and a walk on Thursday. The five steals were the most for a major league player since Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford stole six bases against — you guessed it — the Red Sox on May 3, 2009.
Ellsbury did not score after any of his steals. But the runs will pile up if he continues to get on base.
“It brings our offense to another level, that speed factor,” Dustin Pedroia said. “He can run at will. It’s a pretty big part of our offense when he’s playing like that.”
The 33-22 Sox split the four-game home-and-home interleague series against the Phillies. With the Yankees getting swept in four games by the Mets, the Sox take a two-game lead into the Bronx on Friday and the start of a three-game series against their rivals.
Ellsbury was 0 for 4 against the White Sox on May 20, grounding to second base four times. That dropped his batting average to .241 and his on-base percentage to .303.
He is 16 of 40 (.400) since with eight walks, six runs scored, and eight stolen bases. Ellsbury is now hitting .268 with a .337 OBP.
“The biggest thing is my work ethic, how much time I put,” Ellsbury said. “With that builds confidence. I knew it was just a matter of time before hits start falling.”
Ellsbury’s 21 stolen bases (on 23 attempts) lead the majors.
Ellsbury was so unstoppable against Phillies catcher Erik Kratz that he even used his speed to gain vengeance.
Teammate Jonny Gomes homered off Philadelphia reliever Jeremy Horst in the sixth inning and the next pitch was a fastball that drilled Ellsbury in the back. He stole second and third, glancing back at the pitcher each time.
“Definitely lit a fire a little bit,” Ellsbury said. “I was going to try to get to third as quick as possible.”
In case you were wondering, bases are left dirty when they’re framed and hung on a wall.
“Looks better,” Ellsbury said.
• The Red Sox had 14 hits off four Philadelphia pitchers. Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled twice and drove in three runs. Jose Iglesias was 2 for 5 with an RBI double. He is 9 of 23 since getting recalled from Triple A Pawtucket.
• Franklin Morales allowed two runs over five innings in his first appearance for the Sox since Aug. 22. Morales have up four hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He has allowed three earned runs in 14.1 career innings against the Phillies, all at Citizens Bank Park.
• David Ortiz had a towering solo home run in the seventh inning. Since 2005, Ortiz has hit 20 home runs in 40 games and 171 at-bats as a first baseman. Ortiz had an uneventful night at first base, too.
“Nobody hit the ball to me. I was out there saying to myself, ‘Come on (expletives), give me a shot. I want to make a play,’ ” Ortiz said.