Red Sox earn split with Rangers
Gabbard's arm, Ellsbury's legs power finale win at Fenway
BOSTON -- A mysterious offensive shutdown had left the Red Sox, well, a little batty over the last few days. But several barrels found baseballs at opportune times Monday night in a much-needed 7-3 victory over the Rangers.
After scoring a grand total of eight runs in the previous four games, the Boston bats nearly produced that output in one soothing Fenway evening.
And when they weren't hitting, they were running. Well, Jacoby Ellsbury -- perhaps the fastest player in the entire system -- was sprinting. In this third day in the Major Leagues, Ellsbury electrified the Fenway Park crowd by scoring from second on a wild pitch in the bottom of the fourth.
"I told him today that I haven't seen it in the big leagues," said Red Sox veteran Eric Hinske. "I don't remember it in the Minor Leagues either. Man, he's fast."
The wild pitch by Brandon McCarthy hit catcher Gerald Laird's leg and bounced in the direction of the Rangers dugout, located on the third-base side. Ellsbury read the play perfectly and never stopped running.
"That's the first time," said Ellsbury, who has been filling in for the ailing Coco Crisp. "I've went from first to third quite a few times but never second to home. I saw the wild pitch early and I ... went for it and I saw [third-base coach] DeMarlo [Hale] pretty much waving me through after I was already by him. I made my mind up early that I was going."
It was a proud night for the Red Sox's farm system. Left-hander Kason Gabbard -- making his second start in place of the injured Curt Schilling -- earned the win by holding the Rangers to three hits and three runs over 5 2/3 innings.
For Gabbard, it was quite a recovery after he walked six and hit a batter over just 3 1/3 innings six days earlier in Seattle.
"I felt a lot better than I did my last game," said Gabbard. "I think I had a little bit more command of my two-seamer. My fastball and my changeup were there like it usually is and I threw some pretty good breaking stuff."
The Red Sox felt equally rejuvenated, snapping a skid in which they had lost five of six. They were able to salvage a split of this four-game set with the Rangers, who they won't see again in 2007.
"We've been struggling a little bit scoring runs, but it happens during the season," said Hinske. "You can't score 10 every night."
The bottom of the order got things started for the Red Sox in the third. Hinske led off with a single to right and Ellsbury displayed his speed in legging out an infield single.
With one out, Dustin Pedroia -- another homegrown product -- went to the opposite field in right for a two-run double, breaking the scoreless tie. Manny Ramirez came within inches of a two-run homer but settled instead for an RBI double high off the wall in center to give Gabbard a three-run lead.
Ellsbury ignited things again in the fourth, leading off with a single and then stealing second. Then, with the slumping Julio Lugo (no hits in 33 at-bats) at the plate, Ellsbury advanced the 180 feet on that wild pitch.
Perhaps it was just the type of energy the Red Sox needed.
"He can run, boy," said Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He's got some lightning in his feet."
Gabbard no-hit the Rangers through four but ran into serious trouble in the fifth when Brad Wilkerson hammered a three-run homer to right. All of a sudden, the Sox were holding a slight 4-3 edge.
But Rangers reliever Willie Eyre did exactly what a team desperately tries to avoid, handing the momentum right back to the Sox. Ramirez and J.D. Drew worked one-out walks and Varitek loaded the bases with a two-out single to left.
Hinske, who was a last-minute addition to the lineup because of a quad injury to Kevin Youkilis, belted a three-run triple to right-center. The Red Sox were back in charge at 7-3.
"I was just looking for a pitch out over the plate," said Hinske. "Got a good pitch to hit. Got in a hitters count, that was big. He threw two cutters inside. It was a 2-0 pitch, and I just put a good swing on a pitch down and barreled it up. That was big for us."
As for Ellsbury, he might be on the bench Tuesday with Crisp (sore left thumb) scheduled to return to the lineup. But in one memorable burst of speed, he left a glimpse of what the Red Sox hope is the future.
Ellsbury's emotional state as he made his way back to the dugout?
"Excitement," Ellsbury said. "It's a hustle play. One of those where you hope you didn't make a bad decision. I was fired up. They were just joking around in the dugout saying there's not many people who could score from second like that."
The way the last few days had gone, the Red Sox were just glad to score any way they could.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.