Jacoby Ellsbury knows he can't make up for lost time, but that doesn't mean he can't have a strong finish.
Ellsbury's season was derailed in April when he suffered a partially dislocated right shoulder in a collision at second base. He missed 79 games, remaining sidelined until the All-Star break and leaving a void in the Boston Red Sox's lineup.
And since his return, he hasn't exactly put up the MVP-caliber numbers that characterized his breakout 2011 season. His sixth-inning home run Monday night broke up a no-hit bid by the Tampa Bay Rays' Alex Cobb and marked only his fourth homer of the year.
"You're basically starting over in spring training again," Ellsbury said. "I had spring training, but when you miss that much time, it's basically an offseason. Coming back in, pitchers are in midseason form, everyone's in midseason form, you've got to play catch-up. Just stick with the approach and just know it's going to happen.
"I know if I get my season's worth of at-bats, my numbers will be where they need to be. Unfortunately, I can't get those at-bats back."
Nevertheless, Ellsbury is batting .400 (12-for-30) in his last seven games, including three hits Monday night in the Red Sox' 5-2 victory over the struggling Rays. In the seventh inning, he made Rays manager Joe Maddon pay for a strange strategic decision.
Maddon opted to intentionally walk Pedro Ciriaco to load the bases, even though Ellsbury had homered one inning earlier and was batting .309 against left-handed pitchers. Ellsbury singled to left field against Rays lefty reliever J.P. Howell to open a 5-1 lead.
"(Howell) does a good job of getting lefties out," Ellsbury said. "Maybe they were hoping for a double-play ball. I was excited to have an opportunity to get up and drive a run in."