On most occasions, stealing second base helps Jacoby Ellsbury score runs for the Red Sox. In the fifth inning Saturday night, not stealing was the difference.
With the Red Sox leading the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3, in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Ellsbury was on first base with one out and Dustin Pedroia at the plate.
Rays pitcher David Price kept glancing at first base and threw over three times. With Pedroia ahead in the count, 2 and 0, Ellsbury decided he could help his teammate the most by staying at first.
“I said, ‘Shoot, Pedroia’s up and he’s going to get a good pitch to hit right here. So I’ll wait here,’ ” Ellsbury said. “Me not going was going to give him better pitches to hit.”
Price left a fastball up and Pedroia lined it into the corner in left field. Ellsbury scored from first and the Red Sox were on their way to a 7-4 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
“I know from my at-bats, Ells changed the game,” Pedroia said. “I got in a 2-0 count because [Price] was throwing balls away in case Ells was going to run to try to throw him out. And I got a 2-0 pitch to hit, hit it, and drove him in.”
Through two games in the series, Ellsbury is 5 for 9 with four runs scored, two RBIs, and two stolen bases. He has sparked a Red Sox offense that has scored 19 runs in 16 innings.
The three runs Ellsbury scored Saturday night were his most in 24 career postseason games.
Ellsbury singled in the first inning, stole second, and took third on an error. Pedroia’s sacrifice fly scored him. Ellsbury then knocked a ball over the third baseman’s head in the third inning that went for an RBI double.
“When he gets on, whether it’s a bloop single, line-drive single, he’s always a threat to steal a base,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Obviously that was the case in the first inning. We’re a much more diverse offense not only when he’s in the lineup, but certainly when he gets on base.”
Ellsbury missed 16 games in September recovering from a fractured bone in his right foot. Counting the postseason, he is 8 for 20 since coming back.
“It’s great to be able to contribute to these games,” Ellsbury said. “The postseason, that’s what everybody is playing for.”
Lackey good enough
Starter John Lackey came off the mound in the sixth inning to a big ovation from the crowd at Fenway Park despite having allowed four runs on seven hits.
“It definitely wasn’t the best stuff or the best I felt this year. It was probably pretty far down there, actually,” Lackey said. “But we got through it.”
Lackey improved to 4-4 in 15 career postseason games. This was his first for the Red Sox.
“It was awesome. The atmosphere out there was unbelievable. The people were going crazy,” he said.
Lackey got what may have been the biggest out of the night for the Sox, striking out Ben Zobrist looking at a full-count fastball with two on and two out in the fifth inning and the Red Sox up by two runs.
“They pressed him. Tonight was a blue-collar night on the mound,” Farrell said. “He gave us everything he had. Fortunately we were able to give him a little bit of cushion, where he wasn’t making every pitch with his back against the wall. But John is such a strong competitor.”
Lackey, who faced the Red Sox three times in the postseason while with the Angels, especially enjoyed watching David Ortiz hit two home runs.
“Special,” he said. “I like it a lot better on this side, for sure. He’s tough this time of year, any time of year. He’s a guy that likes bright lights, for sure.”
Double the fun
The Sox turned three double plays in the game, their most in a postseason game since Game 4 of the 1918 World Series . . . Going back to the regular season, the Red Sox have been successful in 42 consecutive stolen base attempts . . . Ortiz had the first multi-home run game in the postseason for the Red Sox since Pedroia had two in Game 2 of the 2008 ALCS against the Rays . . . David Ross entered 2 for 5 against Price with two home runs and got the start over Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was 1 for 4 against Price. Ross was 1 for 4 with a double and scored a run . . . The Sox are 14-7 against the Rays this season . . . That the Red Sox scored 12 runs in Game 1 could signal future success. The last four teams to score at least that many in the first game of a series went on to win it: the 2007 Red Sox in the World Series, the 2007 Indians in their Division Series, the 2005 White Sox in their Division Series, and the 2002 Cardinals in their Division Series . . . The Red Sox were the first team to scored 12 runs in the postseason without hitting a home run since the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees, 15-2, in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series.
Former Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg, the Cy Young Award winner in 1967, threw out the first pitch to Saltalamacchia . . . The Boston Fire Department color guard was on hand for the national anthem, which was performed by The Jimmy Fund Chorus . . . The souvenir stores around Fenway Park are now selling fake beards and dozens of fans, male and female, poured through the gates as though on their way to an early Halloween party.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.