The meteoric trajectory of Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2011 All-Star season - a year of years, to be certain - seemed to follow the same arc of the first walkoff home run of his career in the ninth inning of last night’s 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
After driving in Jarrod Saltalamacchia with a walkoff single in Tuesday night’s 3-2 victory, Ellsbury made it a smashing encore performance last night before 38,172 at Fenway Park.
Only this time, he did the honors himself.
In both situations, Ellsbury came to the plate hitless in his first four at-bats.
“I think I’m stating the obvious, it was a great swing,’’ said manager Terry Francona after the Sox pulled out their first back-to-back walkoff victories since April 20-21, 2010, against the Texas Rangers.
“Off the bat, it didn’t look like it was high enough, but he certainly hit it hard enough,’’ Francona said. “I think I was hoping maybe it’d hit the wall and carom somewhere and maybe he’d give it a run for it.
“But he hit it that well. It was a gorgeous swing.’’
Ellsbury clobbered his 18th homer of the season to straightaway center off reliever Joe Smith with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. It kept the Sox (68-41) a game ahead of the Yankees - 18-7 winners over the White Sox last night - in the AL East.
While Ellsbury said he wished he could have delivered career win No. 200 for Sox starter Tim Wakefield, his homer did give closer Jonathan Papelbon (4-0) the victory for the second night in a row.
“I was just trying to get something I could square up and hit hard,’’ Ellsbury said. “I was hoping for an extra-base hit so I could get in scoring position for Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] and Adrian [Gonzalez].’’
After they were unable to produce more than one run in Wakefield’s initial bid to record his 200th win - a 3-1 loss at Chicago Friday - the Sox scored two early ones.
Starting for Cleveland was Carlos Carrasco, who pitched while appealing a six-game suspension handed down Monday for throwing at the head of Kansas City’s Billy Butler after giving up a grand slam to Melky Cabrera Friday.
Carrasco kept his cool last night after giving up a pair of two-out runs in the first inning as the Sox played with a sense of urgency in hopes of giving Wakefield a big enough lead to work with.
“He’s pitched great the last two outings,’’ Gonzalez said of Wakefield, who squandered the lead by giving up two runs on three hits - including a solo homer by Jason Kipnis - in the fourth inning. After the Sox pushed across a go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning, Wakefield was done when he surrendered a tying double to Ezequiel Carrera in the seventh.
“That’s baseball,’’ said Gonzalez, who extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games with a first-inning single. “Hopefully we can get it for him the next time he’s out there. He’s deserved to win the last two times and hopefully we can get it done for him next time.’’
David Ortiz gave the Sox the early lead, delivering a two-run single to left, though he later had an RBI taken away when the official scorer ruled that Kevin Youkilis scored on an error by left fielder Austin Kearns.
Still, Wakefield had the lead.
The 45-year-old knuckleballer, the oldest active player in the majors, retired the first eight batters he faced before catcher Lou Marson reached on a fielding error by Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro with two outs in the third.
Unfazed, Wakefield got out of the inning when Carrera laid down a bunt in front of the plate and was thrown out by Saltalamacchia.
After Kipnis took Wakefield into the visitors bullpen, Asdrubal Cabrera singled to center and scored the tying run on Travis Hafner’s double to right.
Wakefield retired the next three batters, striking out Carlos Santana, and getting groundouts by Kosuke Fukudome to second and Lonnie Chisenhall to third.
The Sox came back in the bottom of the frame and pushed across a run to take a 3-2 lead on Scutaro’s fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
Ortiz got things going by drawing a leadoff walk and went to third on Carl Crawford’s double off the wall. After Saltalamacchia fanned, Josh Reddick was intentionally walked to load the bases for Scutaro, who grounded sharply to short but beat the throw to first to avert the double play.
Wakefield, however, squandered that lead in the seventh.
Chisenhall hit a leadoff double to left, and after Kearns grounded to second and Marson struck out, Carrera ended Wakefield’s night when he hit a ground-rule double to right.
Wakefield departed after throwing 99 pitches (64 strikes) and surrendering three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six.
Randy Williams took over, and after walking Kipnis, he got out of the inning with a punchout of Cabrera that had the Indians shortstop spiking his helmet in disgust.
Papelbon came on in the ninth and, like the night before, threw a perfect frame and was the good-fortune winner.
“Last night, I just kind of waited for my teammates at first [to celebrate],’’ Ellsbury said. “When I hit it, you just kind of run around the bases and the game is over. It’s something I’ll always remember definitely.’’Michael Vega can be reached at vega @globe.com.