So an old trend and a new one continued to gain steam on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, with ace Beckett and speedy September callup Ellsbury lifting the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory over Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays.
Beckett recorded his career-high 17th victory with another strong eight innings of filthy heat (five hits, three runs, seven strikeouts) and solid complementary pitches. His night ended by blowing a 96-mph fastball past Alex Rios, who didn't even offer at it.
"He sure has been everything we ever hoped for," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
Once Beckett was done, Jonathan Papelbon pitched for a third consecutive day for the first time all year, mowing down the Jays 1-2-3 for save No. 33.
"You know, tonight was huge for me," said Papelbon. "I've said all along, this is something my body needs to go through and my body needs to feel. And because this is the stretch run, there's going to be those opportunities where I'm going to be called on, you know, three days in a row."
Then there was Ellsbury, who raked a two-run homer and came just a double away from hitting for the cycle, something no Boston player has done since John Valentin in 1996. After producing a single, triple and homer in his first three at-bats, Ellsbury didn't get another at-bat to attempt the feat.
"It would have been nice," said Ellsbury. "I was next up [in the bottom of the eighth], but most importantly we got the win, but it would have been nice to have gotten that fourth AB."
Keep in mind that Ellsbury has been in the lineup due to the absence of star slugger Manny Ramirez, who has a strained left oblique.
"We always tease Manny," said Beckett. "Watch out, Wally Pipp."
Starting with the no-hitter by Clay Buchholz on Saturday, the Red Sox have won four in a row and lead the Yankees by seven games in the American League East.
Ellsbury is giving the Red Sox a shot of adrenaline, much like Beckett has done every fifth day all year long.
"If you're not impressed with him, I think you have a problem," said Red Sox third baseman Mile Lowell of Ellsbury. "He definitely doesn't look overmatched. He's been hitting good pitchers and good pitches and he looks like there's a reason why he was one of our top prospects and a big Draft pick."
|Tuesday night marked the first time this season Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon has pitched in three consecutive games. Last season, the right-hander toed the rubber three consecutive times on four occassions, the last of which resulted in an injured right shoulder.|
|Sept. 3||Blue Jays||1||0||0||0||2||16|
|Sept. 4||Blue Jays||1||0||0||0||1||9|
|Papelbon has worked 12 2/3 scoreless innings with 10 saves and 21 strikeouts and just one hit allowed in his last 13 appearances.|
This time, Ellsbury did his work against Halladay, one of the finest pitchers in the game.
"He has filthy pitches," Ellsbury said. "Tonight, I was seeing the ball real well and put three good swings on the ball."
As for Beckett and Halladay, the two aces traded zeroes over the first three innings.
It was in the bottom of the fourth that the Red Sox put together their first rally against Halladay. With one out, Coco Crisp hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double play, but the speedy center fielder was safe at first, allowing J.D. Drew to score the game's first run.
"Everybody recognizes Coco's quickness, but his willingness to try to get down the line ... if he doesn't, we don't score in that inning, and that allowed us to have what happened happen," said Francona. "[Otherwise], Ellsbury doesn't even hit, [Dustin] Pedroia doesn't even come up."
With Crisp standing at first and two outs, Ellsbury belted a two-run homer into the Boston bullpen in right-center.
For Ellsbury, it was his second homer in the last three games. For perspective, consider that Ellsbury hit just two homers in 436 Minor League at-bats this season. It is no accident.
Once Ellsbury went back to Pawtucket following his cameo with the Red Sox in July, he worked on some mechanics, which have increased his power.
"At Pawtucket, I started using my legs and my swing has been coming around." said Ellsbury.
The long ball seemed to ignite the Red Sox. Julio Lugo drilled a double to center and Pedroia slammed an RBI double to left to make it 4-0.
Beckett gave a large portion of that lead right back in the top of the fifth, when Matt Stairs slammed a changeup for a two-out, three-run blast into the Toronto bullpen.
After that though, Beckett allowed just one baserunner in his final three innings, and that was swiftly erased on a double-play ball.
But if you think Beckett is eyeing 20 wins or his candidacy for the Cy Young Award, think again.
"I'm just looking to get No. 18 right now," said Beckett. "I can't worry about all of that. [You] start thinking about the result and it corrupts the process."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.