COMMENTARY | The reports of Jacoby Ellsbury's demise were greatly exaggerated.
While you were deciding whether to throw sausages or burgers on the grill, Ellsbury was having himself quite the holiday weekend. The Boston Red Sox' struggling center fielder had been in a lengthy slump for most of May before a strong weekend saw him begin to turn his season around.
To put things in perspective, Ellsbury had three RBI in the month of May prior to Friday. He brought in five more over the weekend, none bigger than Sunday afternoon's walk-off two-run double.
Even the most optimistic of Red Sox fans had to shudder a bit when Ellsbury came up with the bases loaded, two out and down one. In the past, he might have been one of the few guys fans wanted to see, but his numbers this season suggested otherwise. After a valiant effort, it appeared that the comeback would fall a bit short.
Until, that is, Ellsbury cast aside his doubters and found the gap to score the team's second come-from-behind win in as many games.
As the team ran out to greet Ellsbury at 2nd, it was tough to tell who was happier--him for them or them for him. Sure, they had just come back from a 5-2 deficit in the bottom of the 9th and would have been thrilled regardless, but there seemed to be something extra that it was Ellsbury coming through in the clutch.
It's no secret that Ellsbury hasn't gotten off to the greatest of starts. Going into the weekend he had just one home run and had been struggling to even get on base for most of the season.
But his OBP has grown from a May-low .303 going into the series against the Chicago White Sox to a more respectable .325. His three extra-base hits over his last two games were as many as the previous four weeks combined. The speed appeared to be back as well; he stole two bases, the same amount as the rest of May.
And when you're hot, you're hot; Monday saw him make a nifty heads-up play to chase down a seemingly uncatchable ball and double up the Philadelphia Phillies' Ben Revere at first. He also had three hits in a game for only the fourth time all year, and the first since April 17th.
A surging Ellsbury makes the Red Sox as a whole much more dangerous. It's no coincidence that the team won all four games during the long weekend--two in dramatic fashion, both with the help of Ellsbury. They scored at least 6 runs in all four games. In the rest of May, they only reached that number six other times.
Shane Victorino's placement on the disabled list with another nagging injury--this time a hamstring strain--underscored Ellsbury's need to break through his slump. No longer was there a "safety net" in the second spot to get on base when he couldn't.
Prior to Victorino's injury and Ellsbury's late game heroics, manager John Farrell had every reason to send the former MVP runner-up a message with a bump down in the order, or even a benching. In a contract year, Ellsbury wasn't only costing his team valuable at-bats, he was costing himself actual dollars.
But he rewarded his manager's patience, culminating in the team's first 9th inning of 4+ runs since the Mother's Day miracle comeback in 2007.
This is still a critical juncture in the season of Jacoby Ellsbury. His highly productive weekend aside, this has been a very forgettable month for the 29-year-old free agent to be. April was better, but still below his career averages nearly across the board.
With four months and a possible postseason still to play, the Red Sox hope to see more of what they saw this weekend--a weekend where the team reclaimed first place in the competitive AL East.
If Ellsbury continues on the path he set the last few games, the the Red Sox become a much tougher team to play against. From top to bottom.
Andrew Luistro has followed the Red Sox for over 20 years. He also writes for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal.
Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7.
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