Manny's feat, Ellsbury's feet spur win
Outfield duo carries Sox with blazing bat and blazing speed
BALTIMORE -- Jacoby Ellsbury will just as soon leave the home run heroics to future Hall of Fame teammate Manny Ramirez, who belted No. 500 at Camden Yards on Saturday night.
Ellsbury's role in Boston's 6-3 victory over the Orioles was all about speed. For the second night in a row, the rookie center fielder wore out the basepaths.
Not only did Ellsbury steal three more bases to give him six in the first two games of this four-game series, he ignited the winning rally by ripping a leadoff triple to center to start the seventh. At the age of 24, Ellsbury has legs that don't tire easily.
He still had enough left in them to roar home on David Ortiz's medium-depth sacrifice fly to Jay Payton. Ellsbury just beat the throw, and catcher Ramon Hernandez erased any doubt by dropping the ball. Ellsbury's dash home broke a 3-3 tie.
"He's been a difference-maker," said manager Terry Francona. "I'd like to sit here and tell you that we're managing him, [and] we're telling him when [to run]. He's just a good player. His instincts on the bases are tremendous. He's confident. He should be. He's making good decisions. And he's changing the game when he gets on base."
With 18 steals in May, Ellsbury tied a team record with Tommy Harper (September 1973) for the most in a month.
"He can get after it," said catcher Jason Varitek. "It's a pretty neat addition to this team to have somebody with that kind of speed."
As soon as Ellsbury had finished motoring home on Ortiz's sac fly, Ramirez stepped to the plate and switched the theme from speed to historic power, taking Chad Bradford's first pitch and launching it over the wall in right-center to become the 24th member of Major League Baseball's 500-home run club.
Ramirez was greeted at home plate with a big hug from on-deck hitter Mike Lowell. Ortiz and Julio Lugo, two of Ramirez's closest friends on the team, emerged from the dugout and piled onto the slugger.
The home run traveled 410 feet and was cheered loudly by the crowd, which contained many Red Sox fans.
"Oh yeah, as soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone," Ramirez said. "I'm happy with everything that I've accomplished. It means a lot. Not everybody gets that chance to get to 500. I'm just proud to do it and to move on."
The Red Sox, to a man, were thrilled for their teammate.
"If that doesn't give you the chills, you shouldn't be playing this game," said first baseman Sean Casey. "It's something that every guy in this clubhouse appreciated."
The only down note of the night for the Sox was the fact that Ortiz had to leave the game in the middle of his at-bat in the top of the ninth inning with a strained left wrist.
But coming off a 13-inning win on Friday, the Red Sox had enough energy left to prevail again.
The Orioles jumped out first, rallying against lefty Jon Lester in the bottom of the second. Kevin Millar led off with a walk and moved to second on a passed ball. Hernandez singled to left, putting runners at the corners with one out. Payton and Adam Jones struck back-to-back RBI singles to make it 2-0.
But the Red Sox were swift and emphatic with their response. Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz hammered back-to-back homers against Garrett Olson in the top of the third to tie it at 2. Lester settled down for a couple of innings before making a mistake in the fifth that Brian Roberts jumped on for a solo homer. That put the Orioles back in the lead, however briefly.
Lester battled on a night he didn't have his best stuff.
"He couldn't get a break," said Varitek. "We kept having extended innings. There were bloops in the right place, and those kinds of things to extend his innings. But he was able to keep the game where it was. He made the one mistake to Roberts for the homer. He had to gut it out a little bit for us."
Again, the Sox bounced right back. The sixth-inning rally started when Lowell was hit by a pitch by Orioles reliever Lance Cormier. Lowell moved to second on a balk and advanced to third on a single by Kevin Youkilis. Varitek sent home the tying run with an opposite-field single to left.
Eventually, the Red Sox would untie it for good. And by the end of the night, everything -- including the blazing legs of Ellsbury -- was overshadowed by the greatness of a certain left fielder.
"I haven't gotten to see 500 of them, but I've gotten to see a bunch," said Francona. "It's been a pleasure to watch. I hope I get to see another 100 or 200. It was a special moment."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.