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Must C Clutch: Ellsbury wins it with walk-off homer

BOSTON -- Instead of 200 for Tim Wakefield, Wednesday night ended with two for Jacoby Ellsbury.

Milestone career win No. 200 for Wakefield fell by the wayside in the seventh inning, when the knuckleballer gave up a game-tying ground-rule double on his final pitch of the game.

That disappointment opened the door for Ellsbury to shine once more two innings later.

One night after the center fielder notched his first career walk-off hit, he closed down Fenway again, and in even more extravagant fashion: a solo homer to center with two out in the bottom of the ninth, giving Boston a 4-3 win over the Indians.

"It felt great. I wasn't sure, I know the wind had been blowing in. I hit a ball pretty good earlier in the game to right that didn't get out," said Ellsbury. "I didn't know what to do once it went over, and I was running around the bases. That was exciting. Obviously I've never experienced that in the big leagues. It was fun."

Ellsbury drilled an 0-1 fastball from Joe Smith to one of the deepest parts of the park, and it wasn't guaranteed to get out. He tossed his helmet as he ran between third base and home, and jumped on the plate, into a mob, when he arrived. It was his 18th homer of the season.

All this just one night after Ellsbury's walk-off single gave Boston a 3-2 win over Cleveland.

"He's gotten us the last two nights -- good for him," said Smith, who had held lefties to a .091 batting average before Wednesday's game. He also hadn't allowed a home run to anyone in 45 prior appearances. "It happens, it's baseball. I'll come back tomorrow and face him again and keep going after him again."

Ellsbury is Boston's first player to have walk-off hits in back-to-back games since 2006, when David Ortiz did it on June 24 and 26, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was just another top-of-the-world moment for the 27-year-old, who's in the middle of the best season of his career.

"Dude, he's good," Ortiz said of the team's leadoff hitter, who is hitting .317. "He's learning how to play the game. Everything comes down to a lot of hard work and experience, and that's what he's taking advantage of right now."

"He's a guy that's always asking questions," said Adrian Gonzalez, who extended his hit streak to 13 games. "It's just incredible what he can do."

As was the case on Tuesday, closer Jonathan Papelbon was the winning pitcher after throwing a perfect ninth. Papelbon had earned wins in back-to-back games only once before, in 2008.

"At this rate, Pap's gonna be the first 20-game winner," said Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Wakefield, whose quest for No. 200 will have to wait until Monday, went 6 2/3 innings and threw 99 pitches, 64 for strikes. He allowed three runs on five hits and two walks, striking out six.

For the first three innings, he was masterful: Only one baserunner reached, on an error by Marco Scutaro at shortstop, and Wakefield needed just 35 pitches.

"I was satisfied," Wakefield said. "I had good stuff again tonight and was able to limit them to just one big inning."

The offense played its part early, providing at least a small margin for error. Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco entered with losses in his last five starts, as well as a 9.13 ERA in that span, and the Sox quickly jumped on him.

Ortiz's RBI liner to left-center put Boston ahead, 2-0, with two down in the first. Two runs scored on the hit, but an error in left field left Ortiz with one RBI.

It was at the start of the fourth that Wakefield's flow was disrupted. Rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis homered for a fourth straight game, on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, cutting Boston's lead to one. Two batters later the score was tied at 2 after Asdrubal Cabrera's single and a Travis Hafner double, the latter a chopper that found its way to the right-field corner.

The Red Sox answered in their half of the fourth. Marco Scutaro hit a sharp grounder to short that was nearly turned into an inning-ending double play, but instead retired just one runner and plated the go-ahead run.

Given a one-run lead, Wakefield worked around a pair of baserunners in the fifth and one more in the sixth, and headed into the seventh with 86 pitches thrown.

A leadoff double cost him. He nearly escaped with a groundout and a strikeout, but Ezequiel Carrera lined a one-hopper fair into the right-field corner for a ground-rule double, ending Wakefield's night.

"I made one bad pitch to Carrera, and that was it," Wakefield said, adding later, "I was hoping to stay in for one more hitter, but I don't make the decisions."

Lefty Randy Williams came on and worked the eighth as well, and between Williams and Papelbon, only one more baserunner reached. Comments