Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ellsbury keeping the heat on

For most major league hitters, it’s not easy to keep a hot streak going.
Don’t tell that to Jacoby Ellsbury. His bat simply refuses to cool off.
Last night at Fenway Park, he blistered a Felix Hernandez pitch, sending the ball over the right-field wall in the
third inning, putting the Red Sox up, 2-1. Ellsbury also singled and scored during the Sox’ pivotal five-run seventh inning en route to a 7-4 victory over Seattle.
Ellsbury’s production this season started out as a hot week, which became a hot month, which resulted in a hot first half - and that led to Ellsbury’s first All-Star selection.
Now, Ellsbury’s offensive output is no longer surprising. He’s batting .317 with 55 RBIs and a career-high 16 home runs.
“Nothing’s missing his barrel right now,’’ Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.
“He’s just hot. He’s a guy that can do that at any time. But for him to be hot all season long, it’s incredible.’’
Ellsbury can’t really describe what’s working without resorting to clichés and basic baseball terminology.
“The biggest thing when you’re feeling good at the plate is getting a pitch you know you can drive. You can’t miss it,’’ Ellsbury said. “Fortunately, I got a pitch that [Hernandez] left over the plate and put a good piece of wood on it.’’
Ellsbury was asked if his third-inning blast was one of the hardest-hit home runs of his career.
“It felt good leaving the bat,’’ Ellsbury said. “I knew it was gone when I hit it. I’ve hit some balls hard, but that one felt good.’’
Though the Sox have always expected Ellsbury to get on base and ignite their offense, his recent power surge is something new.
It’s just the end of July, and he has already nearly doubled his previous season-high of nine home runs (2008). Ellsbury has hit five homers in the past seven games, and seven homers this month alone. The last Sox center fielder to his seven home runs in any month was Carl Everett in June 2000.
Ellsbury’s hot month has garnered praise from another Sox player who’s having a pretty good July - Dustin Pedroia.
Last night, Pedroia extended his career-best hit streak to 19 games, which tied for tops in the American League this year.
Who’s one of the players Pedroia tied? Ellsbury, whose 19-game streak stretched from April 21 to May 10.
Pedroia, who has also hit six home runs this month, said he was impressed but not shocked by Ellsbury’s power surge.
“He’s ready to hit and he’s driving the ball,’’ Pedroia said. “He’s having a year like he had a few years back before he got hurt. I don’t think anyone’s surprised.’’
Ellsbury’s power has made him even more of a threat to opposing pitchers. In the past, he was known for his speed. Now, he can beat pitchers with a variety of weapons: stolen bases, doubles, and home runs, too.
“He’s very dangerous right now,’’ Sox manager Terry Francona said. “It may not continue at this rate, but it sure is nice. He’s been huge in helping us win games.’’

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