KANSAS CITY -- It was hard enough to believe that speedster Jacoby Ellsbury went 26 games without stealing a base before recording two thefts on Tuesday. But perhaps even stranger is that Ellsbury, entering play on Wednesday, still led the American League with 37 stolen bases.

"I was thinking, 'Yeah, the league kind of tightened down on the bases.' I hadn't even looked at it and I was like, 'How am I still in first place? I haven't stolen a base in a month.' I don't know. I was surprised," said Ellsbury.

Manny Delcarmen joked that the entire bullpen gave Ellsbury a standing ovation when he broke the dry spell.

Much like hits, stolen bases can come in bunches and disappear for a while. Ellsbury's drought on the bases went from July 2 to Aug. 4.

He notices how much tighter opponents are playing him.

"Definitely, you can see they have a little game plan, and I'm seeing a lot more pitchouts and a lot more slide steps," said Ellsbury. "A lot more [pickoff attempts]. The biggest thing is just getting on base and giving myself opportunities to steal."

Ellsbury, a rookie, still has a shot of tying or passing Tommy Harper for most stolen bases in a season by a Red Sox player. Harper stole 54 bases for the 1973 Red Sox.

One thing Ellsbury didn't lose during his stolen-base sabbatical was confidence.

"I knew it was just a matter of time before I got back on track and got in a rhythm and going again," said Ellsbury.